Meditation on Life and Mom #MondayBlogs #MothersDay

My mother is one of 12 children.  She is 92 now.  In all likelihood, she’ll see her 93rd birthday in late October.  She was a middle child, but now she’s the oldest, having survived six of her siblings.  The youngest girl, my Aunt Edith, is in hospital now.  Dying.  From cancer that appears to have metastasized to her bones.  She is 83.  The circumstances of my aunt’s decline are sketchy.  We had seen her last October, as feisty and full-bodied as ever, but, frankly, looking a little older than my mom.  My aunt has had knee surgeries and other ailments; my mom, nothing but a cold here and there and a bit of skin cancer that was quickly dealt with.

My mother considers herself blessed.  She has no explanation for why she is so healthy relative to all her siblings, why she almost seems to grow younger as they continue to age.

Talking with my mom over the phone can be a surreal experience.  On one recent call, I just listened as she discussed her sister’s deteriorated condition, interspersing bits of details and questions (collapsed lung, lesions on her bones, dehydration, eating more now, where will she go next, why didn’t the doctor know) with observations on the variety of birds she feeds, the gray squirrels that entertain her (don’t forget, there’s also a red one), the lilies she planted last week showing shoots already, the two chipmunks that accidentally drowned in a bucket she keeps outside to catch rain (and that was too bad because she thinks chipmunks are cute).  I could have listened to her forever.

There was dying (my aunt), living (the birds and squirrels), death (the chipmunks) and birth (the lilies)–all in ten minutes or so.  I wasn’t marking time.  Perhaps without intending to, she gave me perspective.  Things don’t make your life.  Life makes your life.

My mom lives in a double-wide which she loves, although it’s beset by boxelder bugs and mice.  She lives quite frugally and she’s says it’s by choice, but really, it’s how she has always lived.  She wouldn’t know how to splurge if given the opportunity.  I sometimes call her Moneybags because every so often she hands out large checks to her children and grandchildren.  She’s “spending down,” trying to make sure there’s nothing to quibble over when she’s gone.  I roll my eyes.  The money is appreciated but it’s listening to her talk about her birds and squirrels and the occasional woodchuck that I’ll miss.

I’m feeling pretty philosophical right now and wish it could be my constant state, but it takes effort.    For now I’ll just hold close her short monologue, replay it in my head whenever I feel bitter or tired or sorry for myself.

It might work because this morning we saw a fledgling pileated woodpecker  in our backyard, the first one I’ve seen in many years.  I couldn’t wait to call my mom and tell her.

39 thoughts on “Meditation on Life and Mom #MondayBlogs #MothersDay

  1. I think your mother sounds absolutely wonderful…I am trying to blog (right now – light and somewhat amusing) but you have given me new inspiration. thanks and keep writing!!

  2. I heard a woodpecker today in the yard. I didn’t get a photo though.
    What a lovely post, Marie. I’m sorry to hear about your aunt. But what a pillar of strength your mom is. I see why you want to listen to her. Moms are precious.

    • Indeed. At least my aunt is in hospice now and as comfortable as she can be. I do appreciate my mom’s strength. I didn’t always but I do now.

  3. Why have I not stumbled on this blog before? I attribute it to being a male and not paying attention to, or clicking on the links I see before me that are attributed to my Aunt Marie. I am a grandchild of said mother and every word here is true. Although I suspect she is not aware that her daughter is writing about her in some blog somewhere on the interwebs. Not that she would mind because every time her great-grandchildren start tapping on their smartphones she is totally amazed, and frankly bewildered, as to the rapture that is an iPhone. I am lucky enough to live within a couple miles of my grandmother although I know I don’t visit her as often as I should. I’m just glad she is still around and my oldest son, who is 13, mentioned to me the other day that he hopes she sticks around for a while longer.

    • Actually I do have more to say 😉 I’ve never “advertised” my blog so it’s no surprise it would take a while for anyone to find it. And thank you so much for validating my small portrait of my mom, your grandmother. And I agree, she probably wouldn’t mind that I write about her, but she would be fascinated that people across the world know about her now through my blog. Brian, I know you visit as much as you can. We always will feel that we should have done more, but we do the best we can. And your oldest … goodness, he cuts to the chase. xoxo

  4. Beautiful post, Marie. Thanks for the positive glance at aging. I just visited with my 80-year-old mom and came away grateful that her mind is so sharp and her humor as silly as ever. Physically she has some issues, but she’s got a lot of fortitude.

    “Life makes your life.” I love that!

  5. I enjoyed this post, Marie, and it resonates deeply since my mom is the youngest of eleven children, and only two of them remain. Her older sister (they are the two youngest) has severe dementia and often does not recognize anyone, so in a sense she has already left us, at least in terms of being able to connect with her. I savor each conversation with my mom who is only 79 years old but her aggressive post-polio condition has created mild dementia and has rendered her almost immobile, though she can still manage to get around the house a little bit with her walker. I live in California and she lives in Washington, so I only get to see her three or four times a year. I savor all of our phone discussions, and I love hearing her rambling thoughts about this and that. Here’s to our mothers, during Mother’s Day month. Thanks for your post!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story, Carla. It sounds like you have a wonderful relationship with your mom and that is something to be cherished. Indeed, here’s to our mothers!

  6. Oh, what a lovely, lovely post. I had happy tears in my eyes. Your mom sounds like quite the woman. I love that she loves chipmunks, and that she still feeds the birds. Oh, if we could all be so content and happy at 92.

    • Oh, thanks, Cinthia! Indeed, my mom is quite the woman. I suspect some of her interest in the birds is from my stepfather (past 5 years ago). He loved birds and sometimes that was all he and I talked about. But she does love the bit of wildlife she has in her trailer park. I try to emulate her when I get dragged down by more mundane issues.

    • Pam, thank you so much for sharing. I’m grateful my mom doesn’t have Alzheimer’s or dementia, although I guess dementia is still possible. Her view of the world is more dictated by what she chooses to expose herself to, the weather forecast, the local news, my sister’s gossip, or the birds outside her window. It is more narrow than mine but sometimes I feel it is richer than mine. Thanks for coming by!

    • Hi, John! I know, I feel very fortunate to have my mom still around. So many of my cousins are now without either parent. But it is part of life. Regarding my aunt, one of her sons is taking her decline very hard, to the point of uncontrollable sobbing. Finally my aunt said to him, “John, we all have to die.” (My mom and her siblings are nothing if not stoic.) I guess that gave him perspective: he couldn’t expect to have her forever. Still, her rapid decline has shocked everyone and I personally think it’s wonderful that John feels that close to her. Yes, we all have to die, but my aunt raised three children who are doing the right thing by her, making sure she has every comfort. And that is a beautiful thing.

    • Thank you, Luanne! Hmmmm … well, I’m probably more like her than I’d want to admit. We didn’t get along very well when I was growing up and it’s only since she’s been widowed (my stepdad died five years ago), that she’s softened around me. It’s kind of weird because people always assume since I’m the youngest of my sibs that I was doted on. I wasn’t. But then my mom never doted on anyone … lol. I am grateful for this phase of our relationship. I don’t want to see the end of it.

      • So interesting about how people change as they get older or because of various events. The same and yet different, right?

        • Indeed. I just replied to one of my nephews who came across my post. His comments made me think that maybe my mom is just now treating us all the same, whether we be her youngest child or a grandchild or a great-grand child. There’s a sense of play and fascination and curiosity I never saw before in her.

            • I think so, at least in her case. For most of her adult life, she was taking care of someone, whether raising children or caring for an invalid husband (two of those). Since my stepdad died a few years ago, she’s had no one to care for but herself and that’s been a positive change for her. We all miss my stepdad but his illness almost did her in (she insisted on caring for him at home). She knows she blessed with good physical and mental health and she’s making the most of it … in her own way.

              • I love seeing elderly people who have missed all the devastating illnesses and are just aging gracefully instead.

  7. Wonderful post. I hope your mom was thrilled to hear about the woodpecker!
    My mom will be 94 in August. She only had one sibling, a younger brother, who died recently.

    • Hi, Merril! Ha, funny story about the woodpecker: my mom just happened to have her bird book in her hand when I called so she actually put me “on hold” while she looked it up. She asked me, “don’t you have a bird book?” “Yes, but it’s in the other room.” “I always have mine close by.” She loves to look things up, especially places on a map. When my husband and I drove up to New York last fall, I had to call every night and tell her where we were so she could look it up. I had sent her our itinerary ahead of time, but she wanted to follow along “real time.” I’m sorry your mom lost her only sibling. That has to be hard for you both. *Hugs*

  8. How difficult it must be for your mother to see her siblings go before her, but how wonderful it is you still have your mother to share such special conversations with.

    “Things don’t make your life. Life makes your life.”—I love that.

    • Hi, Carrie! Yes, I think it’s harder for her than she might admit (because, you know, they are all so damn stoic). Fortunately, she has a lot of family living around her, including her own children and grandchildren and plenty of my cousins and still a few siblings. And, I really had to work on those two sentences. I was thinking of Emerson’s “things are in the saddle and ride mankind.”

  9. Wonderful that you have this time with your mother. So many don’t I would have been lost if my grandmother had not lived into her nineties. She’s always been my inspiration.

    • Hi, Susan! Grandparents can make such a difference in children’s lives. I never knew my grandparents, at least not well, and the one I remember, my paternal grandmother, wasn’t a very nice lady 😉 I’m glad my mom is living long enough to enjoy her great-grandchildren and I think it is special for them as well.

    • Hey, Jill! It’s funny because she’s only been like that–delivering mini-monologues–over the last few years. She’s alone a lot more since my stepfather passed five years ago and, while I believe she enjoys the solitude, she has been more talkative as well when she does have company. (Don’t worry: my sister visits often, my brother lives close by, and my many cousins who still live in the area keep tabs on her as well.)

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