Marjorie (from this point on known as Mom) became my Mom when I was eighteen years old. It is no exaggeration to say that she is responsible for the woman I am today because she taught me all about love and how to live my life.
My natural parents were seriously lacking in parenting skills, and I had never been told by them that I was loved, cherished, or wanted. I knew my mother loved me, but she was fighting her own demons, which she conquered by taking her life. The less said about my father the better.
Around the time that my mother died, Mom's three sons were leaving home for college, the military, and a new home. Mom had always wanted a daughter, and I, though I didn't know it at the time, wanted, and even more needed, a mom. We clicked immediately. One of her sons, my friend Cliff, asked me if I'd stop by to visit his mom now and then after he left for college, and I did, bringing cookies I had baked with me. That was Mom's and my first laugh together. My baking skills are minimal at best, while Mom's baking skills were the best. Gracious as always, Mom thanked me for the cookies and even ate them! Without a word said, I knew without a doubt that Mom loved me.
Over the next eighteen years, Mom and I spent hours talking about everything under the sun. She gave me advice, whether I wanted it or not. She worried about me. She nagged me. She praised me. She tried to teach me to cook and sew, with little success, and she listened to classical music and watched foreign films with me, though she wasn't a fan of either. By words and actions, Mom loved me, and I loved her.
But even more than words and actions, Mom taught me by example. Mom had a serious health problem, but she didn't complain. After my marriage, when I moved four hundred miles away, Mom would pack up her medications and fly to visit me, suitcase and boxes of medicine and equipment in tow. She was determined to spend time with me and her granddaughter and grandson. Such love is a blessing, and I treasure it still.
I also treasure the life lessons that Mom taught me. Mom was divorced, but she refused to stay angry or say bad things about her ex-husband, remaining close to him until she died. He was, after all, the father of her children, and her children are what ultimately mattered most to her.
The divorce left Mom in financial difficulties, but she never complained. She had a small alimony, and her sons helped her with everything she needed. When she would get a few extra dollars, Mom would spend them on her children or grandchildren. She made us clothes and dolls; she baked us cookies and treats. Her generous spirit inspires me on those days when I want to feel sorry for myself.
Mom grew up during the depression. She knew what it meant to be hungry. Mom often told me about living in a boarding house, and how everyone would contribute to a giant stew or soup, just like in the story "Stone Soup." Mom said that sometimes they didn't have quite enough to eat, but they always had something because they co-operated together.
Mom also loved a good thrift shop. She took me to many and taught me the joy of finding the perfect blouse or jacket or plate or whatever for a fraction of the cost of something new.
And Mom was honest with me always. Once, when I had a few hours to visit her, but she was already planning on seeing one of her sons and his family, she told me, "Honey, I love you as my own, but you aren't really my own, my sons are, and they must come first, so I can't see you today. But you are second after my sons. You understand, don't you?" And, while it hurt a bit, I truly did understand, and that is how I feel about my own children today--they come first, and everyone else is second.
When Mom came to visit when my daughter was two and my eldest son just eight months old, Mom noticed that my daughter did everything to keep me from my son. She demanded attention every waking moment. Mom knew this was wrong, so she had a talk with Amy, and she took her for a walk, while I taught my son to roll a ball back and forth. When Amy and Mom got back from their walk, Gavin and I were rolling the ball back and forth and laughing together. Amy started to get angry, but Mom told Amy to sit down and roll the ball to Gavin. My wise Mom taught her granddaughter that she didn't lose her mom when she shared her with her interloper brother; rather, Amy learned that she gained a companion brother.
Mom's been gone almost twenty-four years now, and I miss her everyday. I miss her voice, her hug, her saying "I love you, Honey," her kumquat juice, her sewing materials. I miss getting KFC with her. I even miss her smoking. Most of all, I miss the love that she gave me for eighteen years, the love that helped heal the wounds from my childhood, the love that made it possible for me to know how to love my own children.
I hope that the love I gave to Mom made her as happy and fulfilled as the love she gave to me.
Love you, Mom. Miss you so much.
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