Four Generations of Mothers
By Jessie Close
My mom passed away barely two months ago. It feels like she passed only yesterday, or even today. I hear her voice in my thoughts and I see her face in my imagination but I can’t call her; I could, but she isn’t there to answer. Her house is more quiet than ever before, quieter even than when she was sleeping. How is that possible?
Mothers are special. Giving birth can be frightening and painful but is, in most cases, joyous and awe-inspiring. And only mothers get to do it! Only mothers get to nurse and bond in this miraculous way. And many times it’s mothers who are with their daughters, as I was, when they are giving birth.
I was blessed with the full circle: my mother in her last decline, my granddaughter being born. We did get to travel down to Wyoming twice so Mom could see the baby. She held her close, tears in her eyes, and said, “Now I feel like my life was worth something.” Mom saw the full circle and, as great-grandmother, appreciated that the baby was a new beginning, a new life with her blood in the baby’s veins.
Being a mother is hard work. I am reminded of this every day as I watch my daughter. She’s a really wonderful mother. By wonderful, I mean she has fun with her daughter. Love and fun and laughter I think are the best elements for babies. She’s also taught the baby how to communicate through sign language which is, I was told, the new rage. I’m astounded when I see my one year old granddaughter using sign to tell us what she needs and wants. It’s a new world! The baby also knows how to activate my phone which she then plays with her thumbs and she knows which of my remotes turns on my TV. I am, however, grateful that my daughter and her husband have no TV in their home and no iPad yet – they read books.
I realize how naïve this sounds but I was born in 1953 and the most radical change in communications when I was young was big, clunky telephones evolving to push buttons from rotary dials!
I am besotted with my children. Now that they’re grown and no longer live with me I can laugh about some of the horrible teenager situations that I dealt with. I’m sure I wasn’t the most wonderful mother at times either. I lived with un- medicated bipolar 1 disorder for most of their young lives. I yelled and screamed a lot. I was paralyzed a lot. But I loved them. Love has a way of seeping into harsh edges. We can’t fake love. We can’t even fake affection. My children knew I loved them when they were little. I’m sure they wondered if I loved them when they were teenagers!
My mother developed my backbone. I talked to her about everything and she was very wise. She allowed me to feel strong and brave. She was unpretentious and generous and led a very simple life. She loved dogs and had four when she passed away. She loved horses and when she was younger she had two Icelandic horses who I took care of when she couldn’t any more. She was the least self-centered person I know. She was a storyteller and could recite poems and stories learned in her childhood. She was born in 1924 and saw things happening in our current world that she just couldn’t understand. She made a rule that when we were visiting her there would be no laptops on the dining room table. She loved books – the heft of them, the smell of them, the look of them. She surrounded herself with books, the majority non-fiction. She loved to play backgammon although she and I always played dominoes.
Mom had five children but her first son died from a bad heart. I was her last, her baby. She was of the generation of women who put their husbands first and because of this she didn’t pursue her talents of drawing and writing and photography. If souls come back around I’m sure her soul will be born into an artist again.
I’ve been watching leaves unfurl on the trees in the small orchard where I live. They are right outside my living room window. Each morning they are greener, there are more flowers, pink and white. Tears come more easily now that Mom is gone. I think of her and wish she could see the orchard come to life after the dormant winter. But it is possible that she sees, or perhaps she is the leaves and the blossoms. Perhaps she is everything I see from this window and beyond, just as she is in me and my daughter and my granddaughter. Perhaps.