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standard May 1, 2007 9 responses

I don’t have children. There was a time when I thought I wanted a child (or children), but that was a long time ago. Back in high school, I was the only male babysitter in our neighborhood and I filled as many nights as I could handle with gigs…and I never got tired of hearing what a great dad I’d make some day.

Again, a very long time ago…So, I may not have kids, but I do have a Mom. And in honor of the May Blog Exchange theme, I’d like to share some of my mom with you.

By the time my mom was 30, she’d had 5 kids. We lived on a farm (75 head of dairy cattle, pigs, chickens, goats, beehives and pheasants, twice) and somehow, thanks to Mom, it never occurred to me that, compared to much of the region and certainly the country, we were poor. To this day, I still don’t see it like that. How can a kid be poor with 95 acres to explore and food on the table every night? What I can’t comprehend is how mom did it…

Summers must have been the toughest – 5 kids plus at least 3 farmhands helping with the haying meant 10 for dinner each night. Meals were made of what we had in season – fresh green beans got snipped and snapped and thrown in a huge pot with fresh milk, some butter, salt and pepper (too far North for more exotic spices) for an easily extendable soup should any of the 38 cousins (on just my Dad’s side alone) drop in too. Paired with fresh, homemade cornbread, you’d have mistaken this for a feast of kings. Oh, and it was…

Somewhere along the way, Mom taught herself to decorate cakes – really stunning, elegant, ridiculously tasty anniversary and retirement and all-occasion cakes. (I had the best birthday cakes a kid in the 70’s could imagine – themes, landscapes, accessories…edible art!) Oh, and let’s not forget that to help make ends meet, Mom started driving school bus in our district. Some years it was way on the other side of town. Some years, it was our route. Guess what it’s like being the bus driver’s kid.

Maybe because there was always so much to do and be done every day, my mother had to trust us that we’d do our chores and be responsible and just generally get it right the first time…and so she did. That trust became such a powerful thing for us growing up – we’d see other kids cutting up in the grocery store, and have to look away. The notion of doing something like that, betraying mom’s trust and disappointing her was too much…quite unthinkable, really.

This trust extended into my high school years when mom would travel for often a week at a time, leaving me home to take care of myself. I had money for the week for groceries, and sundry family friends and relatives would come by on random nights to check in on me…but really, I was left to my own devices.

She trusted me, and I loved it. And, on Friday night, when she got back from being on the road, dinner would usually be ready for her – mostly spaghetti and meatballs, not because I wasn’t cooking far more complicated and elegant things already, but it was simple and comforting and we got to just sit and chat. I have known for a long time how rare our relationship was. And I wouldn’t change a thing for the world.

Eight years ago, during one of our monthly 2 hour phone conversations, the talk turned to all the people Mom had seen on her most recent trip home to Northern New York. After too many updates (marriages/divorces/kids/grandkids/deaths), Mom grew quieter and mentioned that she’d run into Dr. Jacobson.

Dr. Jacobson delivered my little sister, Sharon. Sharon lived only a few hours, and in the years since then, Mom rarely ever talked to us kids (or anyone, for that matter) about her. So, with a chance encounter after all this time, Mom screwed up the courage to ask Doc if something she’d done during the pregnancy had harmed the baby.

There was palpable relief in her voice as she told me that Dr. Jacobson had explained, gently, comfortingly, that “No, nothing you did or could’ve done would have changed anything.” Apparently, Sharon’s diaphragm failed to form properly from the get-go and all the lower organs had pushed up, preventing the upper ones from completing their growth. He went on to tell Mom that even in this day and age, there would be little chance that she would’ve survived.

Sharon was born in 1970. Mom had carried this around with her for 29 years, and was calling to tell me (maybe not in so many words, but just the same, I understood) that she was now free.

And she trusted me to understand as best I could. And thanks to her, I did.

Happy Mother’s Day, to my Mom and all Moms!

This post is brought to you today by The Blog Exchange, and was written by Ken at The Ambassador Returns. To learn more about how things are really coming along in the recover of New Orleans, please drop on by sometime.

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9 responses

  • Your mother sounds like an amazing woman. She’s quite the inspiration.
    Thank you for sharing her with us!

  • Thanks for sharing, Ken.

  • Guilt is a powerful thing, even if it’s unfounded. I’m happy that your mother has found peace. And you’re so insightful for understanding that about her.

  • So powerful Ambassador. Just a beautiful post and a tribute to your Mother. What a gem she is. And you too!

  • I am crying this post describes my husbands mom to a tee. They had a whole lot of acres and were poor as could be. She also had a baby (a girl) not make it, but 4 boys who did. The love my husband has for her is amazing and inspirational.

    I never met her though and only know how wonderful she is based on tremendous stories as she died of bone cancer when my husband was still in high school.

    Thanks for the great post….I am crying and I am going to e-mail it to my husband, so he can cry too.

  • Everyone –

    Thank you for all the comments – I am even more fortunate in that Mom is still with us, and last year retired one week and got married the next! To this day, I still have a tough time keeping up with her. Ken

  • it is truly amazing what moms (people!) can do, will do, because that’s just the way things are. and, it’s often such a good thing in the end. what a wonderful mom 🙂

  • OMGoodness…I am cryinhg too!

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