Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Mama

Today is not only Christmas Eve, but my mama's birthday. In several ways, we are symmetrical. She was born in 1947, had me in 1967 and I had Josh in 1987. She graduated high school in 1965, I graduated in 1985. She married my Dad in 1966, I married Jim in 1986. Do you see a pattern here?

Beyond our 20 year cycles (which I broke by not having more children- she had my sisters in 1970 and 1971) there are other similarities. We both have/had two siblings. I am the oldest where she is the youngest. We also look a lot alike. We both have brown hair and brown eyes, though I tend towards a dark blonde-light brown (most recently darkened further with the aid of a salon) while hers is more a deep brown. We both have very few grays- I think I have 5 now and she is beginning to show a just a few more. We both are/were in the area of 5' tall. We have the same nose which tends to run in our family. I have it, my sister Heather has it, Josh has it and both of my nieces have it. We have the same body type. We have the same skin tone. We are more olive complected and take sun very well where my sisters got my dad's fair skin and tend toward burning.

We both have our share of health issues. You all are well aware of mine since it's been written about here a million times. Mama, on the other hand has had a rougher go of it I think. When we were children and Mama was in her twenties she had three unsuccessful pregnancies, two ending in miscarriage and one resulting in a stillborn son. While these were with no doubt devastating for her, Mama handled them with grace and dignity. While I remember the events happening, I also remember her quiet strength. Twenty years ago, at the age I am now, Mama had a series of heart attacks, resulting in a double bypass. We were terrified that we would lose her but thankfully she received wonderful care at Bethesda NAS and recovered far more quickly than I could have ever hoped for. None of this made sense as she always seemed to be in good health. Despite her full recovery the underlying question was WHY this happened and there was just no answer- yet. She began her regimen of daily medications and accepted that there would be some limits in her life. Six years ago, at fifty-nine, Mom had a stroke. While her stroke was considered somewhat mild by the medical community, it seemed enormous to all of us. When she woke in the hospital much of her memory was...not gone but "hiding". She could remember what year it was and what time of year, but couldn't pinpoint the date. She could remember that she had three daughters but when asked it was "Julie, Lisa(the youngest) and...the one with the cute kids." She couldn't remember how to tie her shoes or do other basic tasks and most of all, she would lose her words when speaking. Anyone who has ever experienced what I call the RA (or Fibro) fog knows how frustrating it is when you are in the middle of a thought and cannot get the words out. With the help of Occupational Therapy, Mama made a good recovery. The only "lasting" effects are that when she is tired, she still loses her words which frustrates the daylights out of her and makes conversations very interesting when I am tired too and lose mine. :-) The other lasting effect is that she is, as a byproduct of the frustration, a little less even tempered than she was before. We did find out- finally- that all of this; the miscarriages, the heart attacks and the stroke were tied together by clotting issues that had gone undetected as well as an extremely underactive thyroid. The blessing is that since we know, it can be treated with Coumadin and other medications.

Mama and I also are very different in some ways. She and Dad married during the Vietnam era and shortly after my birth, he went overseas with the Air Force. While he was gone Mom went to work to help support me but when he came back, Mom became a full-time Stay at Home Mom to me and in short order my two sisters. Mom supported Dad by taking care of us and the home and helped to proofread his papers and such while he worked full time in the Whirlpool factory and finished his degree. She then stood with him as he took a commission in the Air Force and became an officer. She held us together as we traveled from base to base making a home for us at each new location and making moving and resetting up a home look FAR easier than it really is. Mom was there while Dad worked all sorts of crazy shifts, traveled on TDY and for a year on an unaccompanied remote. While in hindsight I can see that it was not easy for her, she never let us see that. We saw that she was the rock, the pillar, the heart that kept us going and was the epitome of "never let them see you sweat." She taught us to cook (some better than others) to do laundry, to take care of our houses (I am the worst at this) and to take care of ourselves and whomever else came along but she did it in a way that was just natural. I can't speak for my sibs, but it was never "you need to learn this" it was "let me show you how to do this" and then "okay, it's your turn to do it solo" or "now your laundry is your responsibility". She made our house a place that was not only warm and inviting for us, but welcoming to our friends throughout every year and base. It was not until I was in high school and college and weddings were looming in the near future that Mom went back to outside employment and even then she didn't skip a beat.

I, on the other hand, was a working Mom for Josh's whole childhood and through today. I have worked either 2-3 jobs while we were in New England or, like now, a salaried job that brings very long hours at times. I can cook *almost* as well as Mom but I never enjoyed baking as much as she does. I can do our laundry- but prefer the folding and putting away to the washing and drying so Jim and I split that task. I loathe housework- and it shows. As I sit here at her table and look around the almost spotless kitchen I can close my eyes and see my table at home that is much more of a catch-all than a place to eat. I still don't know how in the world she managed us three very different girls and kept the home as well as she did. I must have missed that particular gene because cleaning the house knowing that it's just going to get messy again makes me want to bang my head against a wall. . I think I also missed the "Stay at Home" gene because while Mom was content (?) with taking care of us, making our home a home and fulfilling all of the "duties" (wives clubs, committees, volunteer activities etc) that was expected of an Officer's Wife in the late 70's and early 80's, I truly thought when Josh was growing up that I would go mad if I didn't work. Suffice it to say, despite the wonderful example that she set- I didn't follow in her footsteps.

What's the point of all of this? Well, Mom is 65 today. She is the kind of mother that is open and loving and makes you want to spend time with her. She is a terrific Grandma to Josh, Amanda, Lauren, Matt and Jon. She is a good friend to all and the kind of wife I wish I could be. She and Dad are still crazy about one another, even when they are making each other crazy- after 50 years of being together. And today, on her birthday, I need to publicly give thanks. It will be 20 years ago (this coming summer) that we almost lost her. I am eternally grateful for the "extra" 7118 (give or take a few) days that we have been blessed to have had her with us because I don't know what I would have done without her guidance and her love.

Happy Birthday Mama! I love you!

No comments: