Sunday, May 13, 2018

Two Lights in My Life - #MothersDay #Gratitude #Memory

Spring sunshine
Mother’s Day always puts me in a pensive mood. I’m fortunate to have had two strong maternal figures in my life, but both of them are gone now. I miss them every day, but especially on the holiday that celebrates them.

Both my birth mother and my step-mother were very dear to me. Both women can take some credit for my successes and my overall happiness with my life. Yet they had radically different natures.

My mother was lightning—brilliant, intense, compelling, fascinating, sometimes scary. Passionate and emotional, she could be deeply nurturing or fiercely critical by turns. Mom could do anything. I don’t mean that as hyperbole. She sewed, cooked, gardened, refinished furniture, repaired electrical equipment. She was a painter, a sculptor, a writer. She sang like an angel and danced like the devil—swing, rock and roll, modern ballet, and belly dancing. She excelled at anything she tried.

Yet she was haunted by persistent feelings of inadequacy and frustration. She was never satisfied with her myriad accomplishments. Both then and now, I couldn’t really understand why someone so remarkable had so little appreciation for herself. Looking back, it seems that I spent a good deal of my childhood trying to make her happy, not grasping the fact that her dissatisfaction stemmed from self-perception, not reality.

After some rocky times, she finally found a spiritual center and some sense of peace. Then, tragically, she died of leukemia, at the age of fifty two. I didn’t have much chance to know her as an adult. She met my husband once, early in our relationship, but she didn’t last long enough to attend our wedding. I wish I could call her, chat with her, tell her I love her now and that I always did (though at one point in my life she felt I’d betrayed her). She’d be ninety now, but given her older sisters’ longevity, I wouldn’t be surprised if she retained her mental acuity to that age.

My step-mother was more like spring sunshinegentle, warm, filling you with joy for no obvious reason. She had a true gift, the ability to make anyone she was with feel cherished and special. We all experienced the quiet blessing she bestowed: my dad, her children, her step-children (including me), her grandchildren, her students (she was a professor of nursing for many years), her next door neighbors, her friends at church, the clerk at the grocery store. A Christian in the truest sense of the word, she was one of the most generous and loving individuals I’ve ever met.
She wasn’t a wimp (or a saint); she sometimes got angry, especially about injustice or dishonesty. She tended to be disorganized. Her refrigerator and her check book were both disasters. She'd often overcommit, then worry about deadlines. She'd never turn down a request from someone in need.

We lost her four years ago, to cancer, but she had a full life. After I moved to Asia, I used to phone her long distance her every week or two. Sometimes I still think, “Oh, I should give Nan a ring.” Then I remember she’s gone. I go look at her photos instead.

I wish I could post pictures of them here, but that would be violating their privacy and threatening my own. Believe me when I say that both were beautiful women, each in her own way. Knowing them, loving them, has made my life much brighter.

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