Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Losing a Mother

Last week we got the news that Dave's mother had suddenly passed away.  While unexpected on one hand, we also knew that she was in her 80's and had not been talking for several weeks.  That had happened before, though, and so it was not really cause for concern.

When I found out I waited for Dave to get home from work and then told him. Plans were made to find another sitter for Gideon and we got ready to leave the next afternoon.

Dave seemed fine.  He didn't cry and he didn't seem to be stressed.  What he did seem to be was relieved, and happy for his mother. She had not had an easy life.  In fact, most would say it was mostly unpleasant. He had grown up in a family that struggled constantly with money issues, moving from one house to the next, never knowing how long they would stay before the rent was raised or they got behind.

His mother, Mary, suffered from schizophrenia. She had been in and out of the mental hospital since Dave was about age 8.  That was the age he was when she tried to commit suicide.  Dave found her, with her arm blown off from the shotgun she had held to herself. Religion was the trigger that sent her down that path, and it would remain the trigger for future break downs.
Needless to say, Dave is not a big fan of organized religion.

She lived with a false arm, no money, and six children to care for. Her husband was an extremely hard working farm hand, with no hope for a better future. He worked as long as there was daylight, six days a week. Saturday nights he drank, and Sunday he rested. It may sound like he wasn't much of a man, but I am here to tell you that he was, and is to this day. Not many would have lasted in his position.  They would have abandoned the family, the wife, the job, or possibly all of them. Not him. He was a faithful, steady worker and strived to keep the family together even during Mary's stays at the state hospital. Most of us could learn a thing or two about perseverance from Dude.

Mary was intelligent, kind, and beautiful.  Yes, she had been quite a looker. She could also paint. Dude had been handsome and would sing on the back of a tractor on the main street of town. What a promising couple.  What a cruel hand was dealt to them. Their oldest got polio. Another was legally blind. The children kept coming, as the Catholic church forbade birth control. Even though they didn't go to church, that stuck in Mary's head. It would eventually drive her crazy.

Mary was always upbeat, though. She always joked, always cared, always was glad to see her children do well. She was one hell of a cook, and would not hesitate to get up at two in the morning if a boy came home late and wanted to eat.  She seemed to wake up the minute one of them arrived, ready to nurture them in the way she knew best.  Food.

Six kids...and not one of them turned out badly. No money, no real religion, a mentally ill mother and a father that drank. Social workers would tell you that the children should have been headed for trouble.  Should have been, but none ended up there.

That's because Dude and Mary had love.  Sometimes, love and persistence trump everything else. Sometime, just sometimes, life is kind to your children even if it wasn't so kind to you. I think Mary would have said that she would prefer her children to have a good life over her own. 

I bet Dude would say that, too.  He is 88 now, almost 89. Every day he picked up Mary at the nursing home and brought her back home for part of the day.  Toward the end, he was the one that prepared lunch for the two of them.

A few commented that Dave might be hiding his grief.  Others say it will hit later.  I don't know.  I think I know my husband better than anyone ever has. I know he will feel moments of sadness that he can't talk to his Mom again, but I am betting that he is honest when he says he is happy for her being finally released to peace.  I think he gets it better than most. Perhaps lack of organized religion has helped him see more clearly the beauty of life, and the beauty of death. Yes, perhaps that was Mary's final gift to him.

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