Here’s an honest confession… Since grade school, when all students made something for our mothers in art class, and the childhood gathering of dandelion bouquets, Mother’s Day hasn’t gotten a whole lot of attention in my life. Beyond a phone call, a little gift, a card, or some other acknowledgement–though not all in the same year–and an annual blog, I haven’t done anything outstanding for my mother. We never really did stuff like that, growing up, and to change habits requires deliberate thought.
Well, this year, I decided, was the year for change. I thought of it on Monday–I think it was–that I had nothing planned for Friday. Not one appointment, commitment or obligation. I asked Tim if he needed me home for any reason, or if I was forgetting anything. Other than picking up my police check, for the student exchange program our son is going on, there was nothing. And that one I could work around.
That settled it. If my mother had nothing going, I would make dinner for her, and drive the hour and a half to spend some time with her. I thought about my Aunt Anna, my mother’s younger sister, and her daughter Helen, who is not only my cousin but has become a very good and trusted friend in my life. I would invite them too.
I called mom. She had no appointments. Friday morning was ‘wash day’, she said, but she could do it Thursday instead, or later on Friday. I told her I would likely bring someone to join us for dinner, but didn’t tell her who. If nothing else, the not knowing would occupy her mind, trying to figure out who.
Thursday evening I prepared a chicken and tater tot casserole, a seven-layer lettuce salad–and enough for my family at home–then organized what I would need to make crepes for dessert. A simple menu, and easily transported.
On Friday morning I got myself all domesticated and out of character, by going so far as to set the table for dinner for my family that evening.
The butter was soft and still in the packaging–a pet peeve of mine, that I can blame on no one but myself. (I like it cut in quarters upon opening the package, then placed in a butter dish, one quarter pound at a time so it doesn’t get stale, and the remainder refrigerated. But, alas, I don’t always dedicate myself to following my own rules, and I am left to accept the consequences.) I looked at the pathetic and unappetizing lump, with it’s dips and digs and, even though I wasn’t going to have to look at it over dinner, I decided to do something about it.
I transferred it to the ceramic butter dish–which is really a cheese ball dish, given me by my mother-in-law, and began shaping it into a heart. Having shaped it nice and smooth the whole way around, I tapped the top with a knife to give it a nice ‘bumpy’ look. I placed the lid on it and set it near where I assumed my daughter and her boyfriend would sit. They might as well see it first, since they’re all about hearts and starry eyes and all that goes with the sweetness of young romance.
Having packed all the food, and a little family photo album as a gift for my mother, I was ready to go. I looked at the table, all set for evening dinner, thought of the food in the fridge and the heart-shaped butter, and thought about how out of character it is.
The thought went through my mind then, What if I die? What if this is one of those crazy things people talk about after someone passes away, and assume somehow I had a premonition and this was my final way of saying ‘I love you’?
I smiled. Silly thought. And if I actually died, know one would ever know I thought it. (But, having lived to tell about it, I shared it with Tim, who simultaneously grinned and rolled his eyes even as a mild look of horror crossed his face that I would even think it, let alone say it. I tried to justify it, laughing playfully, and he just kept shaking his head, grinning.)
My drive to Aylmer was uneventful. Though that might only be true because I took one exit before my usual, the #73 into Aylmer from the 401. It was a most spontaneous decision. One I made immediately after seeing flashing lights… A police officer…
I was travelling along at speeds I shall not mention here, lest said officer reads this–though the odds are not high–but suffice it to say it was a bit higher than the acceptable speeding range.
Yes, yes, I remember I’m in ministry, and should obey the law… And I really do want to but, I, like the Apostle Paul, confess that “the things I would not, those I do, and the things I would, those I do not.” It seems as I listen to worship, and the roads are clear (reasonably) before me, I absent-mindedly pick up speed. I catch myself constantly inching toward speeds one should only reach on the Autobahn–which is on my bucket list–and then I chide myself and slow back down, only to find myself there again soon thereafter. And it’s even worse if a vehicle beside me is going faster. My subconscious instinctively encourages my foot to apply a bit more pressure. And that is exactly what happened on Friday.
It was in the ‘inching toward’ speed, with a ‘Wind Mobile’ company van beside me, going just slightly faster than me, when the flashing lights startled me back to reality. I looked in the general direction of the lights, and that is when I saw the Wind van, and realized what had happened.
The lights were in the opposite lane, so there is a chance that the officer wasn’t even after Wind or me, but at that very moment I saw the exit for ‘Culloden Road’, and felt compelled to get out of the officer’s way just in case he was after Wind. Furthermore, rules are to pull over to the right with emergency vehicles, and that is precisely what I did. A far right. And a whole new route to my mother’s. I did learn a little something though and on the way home at midnight, feeling a bit repentant, I set my cruise control to keep myself in check.
I arrived a bit later than expected, and popped dinner in the oven. Aunt Anna had arrived earlier, and Helen came soon after. We enjoyed dinner, and chattered in a mix of low German and English. After first course we did the dishes, waited a while, and then started with crepes for dessert. We filled them with ice cream, natural Balkan style plain yogurt, peaches and strawberry jam–or any preferred blend of these.
When Aunt Anna and Helen needed to leave, I observed how tired mom looked. Her colour, I noted earlier, was ‘off’, as though the chest cold deprived her of oxygen, but by the time they left, she looked completely worn out. I hinted she take a nap, and would have let myself out, but she insisted on accompanying me to the main door of Menno Lodge. She also insisted I place all my stuff in her cart and wheel it out because it’s too heavy to carry. I had carried it all in, with the food we had consumed still in containers, but arguing with mothers is futile, so I accepted the cart and loaded it up.
I headed down the hall, mom scooting behind me in her wheelchair, backwards–which she insisted works better–when an elderly gentleman met us. Grinning from ear to ear, he looked at the empty containers and asked if I had brought him any dinner. Mom swung around then, and the two began their banter. Mom telling him what an amazing dinner he had missed out on, and him playfully offended at not being invited.
Mom introduced me then, and told me they had been in youth together, many years ago, before she married my father. As we parted ways Mr. Loewen patted mom on the shoulder and said, “We always have a good time, Tina.”
No one calls mom ‘Tina’. She is Katherine. Always has been. Only one of her siblings, to my knowledge, had ever called her Tina. And now this man from her youth. It intrigued me to see her interact with someone this way. It is not something I have observed before, this comfortable banter with an old friend.
As we moved on, she told me more about Mr. Loewen. His wife had died seven years ago, or so, and a year or two later he had married again, right there in Menno Lodge. She was happy for them, and both were good friends to her.
We met another ‘neighbour’ and chatted awhile. When mom told her I had brought dinner and ‘it was the best casserole she had ever tasted’, her friend smiled, “I hope one of my daughters is nice enough to bring me dinner for mother’s day,” she said.
Mom’s eyes twinkled with mischief, “Call your daughters and tell them that Mrs. Harder’s daughter brought her a very lovely meal. Then one of them will want to do it for you too,” she said with a laugh.
It struck me how she must have lost sight of herself between those years of singleness in her teens, and these older years as she nears eighty. Life was hard, in every way, and much was lost in those years. But never beyond God’s redemption.
The last thing she told me before I left, as if making a sheepish confession, was how she fell at night recently and had to call 911 to help her back up. She is aging. Fast. And I wonder how much longer she will have her independence. Some of her ‘self care’ and home remedies are more than only mildly concerning to me, but she will be seventy-nine this summer, and has managed shockingly well considering the beating her body has endured. As long as she isn’t doing any major damage, I suppose it’s none of my business.
As I drove away, I couldn’t help but smile. It makes me happy to know my mom is surrounded by friends. The other residents have become her family, in many ways, it seems. With all the broken history of our home, there are deep, deep scars. No matter how good our time is together, as family, there is always a shadow of the memories that haunt us. Always.
But here in her home, among her friends and this new family, she has a new reality that is not interwoven with the trauma and tragedy of many years of living. For this I thank God, on her behalf.
I thought of my Amish friends–the Wagler family–who live only minutes from Aylmer and who lost their mother in the last two weeks. It would be a different Mother’s Day for them, I thought to myself, and I wanted to acknowledge it. I slipped into a store, and purchased a sympathy card, then over to Tim Horton’s for donuts. They’re wonderful cooks and the donuts seem a shallow gift, but they love them.
I arrived at Joseph and Rosemary Gascho’s home and made my way to the house. Joseph saw me coming. He looked, first, surprised, then lit up in a smile, then back to surprise.
“Is Rosemary here?” I asked, after saying hi to him. He fumbled a bit, kicked off his shoes and let me into the house.
Rosemary’s mouth dropped open, her eyes lit up and she giggled, “I know you! I know who you are!!” she laughed again.
“I heard your mom passed away and wanted to tell you I’ve been thinking of you and praying for you and your family,” I said, and gave her the donuts and the card.
She thanked me, her voice mellowing to a deep appreciation. At her table a guest sat waiting for her and I really didn’t want to keep her. I had not intended anything more than a quick drop in. But before I could excuse myself she asked enthusiastically, “How’s your book coming?”
“It’s done,” I said, meaning it was ‘finished’, as far as writing and personal editing, but was just going to add that we ‘re looking for a publisher, but her excitement interrupted.
“Really! Where…” she held out her hand, as if reaching for one, her eyes sparkling.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “my part is done, but we’re looking for the right publisher. I haven’t forgotten, I will bring you one just like I promised.”
“Oh…” she said, pausing, then laughed and said she’d be looking for it.
I told her I best be running along, and wished her God’s blessing. She thanked me again, and with that I was off.
For the first time, in adult life, I took time for a very deliberate Mother’s Day visit and acknowledged the day with my time. And for her first time, Rosemary was about to face Mother’s Day grieving the loss of her mother.
That was Friday… Now it’s Sunday.. Mother’s Day…
At home this morning, two of my sons decided to make breakfast. One mentioned it to daddy yesterday, and got up this morning to help, but decided to go to early service. Daddy had given me a heads up that I might expect breakfast in bed, so I waited, oblivious to the changing plans downstairs. At length he returned to update me, and to tell me Kordan was taking charge, since Todd wanted to get to early service with Bryan. He would take them and return shortly. It would be okay if I went downstairs, he said.
At the kitchen Kordan, who had been by the stove, quickly shooed me off into the family room, so I wouldn’t see anything. I obliged and wandered to my writing chair. Moments later Kordan joined me in the family room, curled up in his bean bag, and started playing on his Nintendo DS. And that is how Tim found us when he returned moments later, after delivering the boys to church.
Tim set to work and eventually Kordan joined him. My phone rang. It was my brother, Wil. We immediately launched into our German banter, laughing and carrying on, until I got called over for breakfast.
Neatly placed on the table was the most picture-perfect breakfast, beautifully arranged, and my favourite extra-large mug of coffee. (Pictures will follow…. when my new cord arrives so I can transfer pictures from my camera.)
I took some pictures of the arrangement and Kordan posed with the plate, all while nibbling on a piece of bacon. I took a bite and the taste was as good. Kordan stood for a moment, quietly, then asked, “Will you eat all your oranges and pineapples?”
“Did you want some?” I asked. He nodded, so I told him to get a plate. Daddy was working on his omelette and said he had pineapple already. I asked if there were no more oranges, in case I should save some for Tim as well. There was more, Kordan said, but it had been such hard work to cut them that he would rather have some of mine. I laughed and shared. I had more than enough. Isn’t that what motherhood is all about?
Kordan, in his musings, said, “You know what I don’t get? They made a mother’s day and a father’s day, but no daughter’s day or son’s day. I think they’re cheap!” (Whoever ‘they’ are… and it’s certainly not the retailers!)
The day is packed full with the buzz of many activities. Tim took the boys to his mother’s to spend some time with her. I’m preparing food for another afternoon event, after which I hope to slip over to see her too. (I would have done the food yesterday or Friday, but was away both days.) One daughter is working and may or may not get in on any of the day’s events. The other daughter asked if she and a friend could take their mothers out for dinner tonight, just the four of us. We’ve done this before when we all decided it was time for us mothers to meet, and we connected well.
And sandwiched in the day, I will be with some of my siblings and nieces and nephews this afternoon. Two of my brother Pete and Nancy’s children are in for a visit from the West, and we will spend a few hours together, which we are very much looking forward to. Last time we saw them they were little children. Now they are parents. Unbelievable how fast time moves!
We’ll have a great time, talking, laughing and carrying on–indulging ourselves in ‘Harder humour’, as we call it–but mom will not be able to join us, as her health makes distance nearly impossible.
Times and seasons change, and with that change comes loss and sacrifice. I feel sad, in a way, for my mother, and at the same time I feel very blessed. I am proud of my children, every one of them, and thank God for them. The day is bitter-sweet…
I think of it every Mother’s Day that, for some, it is a day of joy, for other’s a day of grief and pain. For some, the grief is because of the loss of a child or mother. But for others it is not the grief of a mother or a child having passed on, but the grief of broken relationship. A mother who won’t speak to her daughter or son. A daughter or son who won’t speak to their mother. Or relationships filled with hate and fighting. And, not to be forgotten, the ‘mothers at heart’ who were never able to conceive or give birth, or never married.
And as they struggle, often in silence and alone, we casually wish each other a “Happy Mother’s Day”, with the sincerest of intentions, while overlooking the fact that many will walk out of church doors, to a lonely house and empty hearts.
It is bitter-sweet for me too. My mom is living and I keep in touch with her, quite regularly, but the years have robbed us of the sweet innocence some mom’s and daughters have in their relationship and history.
God’s grace has redeemed, but the scars remain. I wish her well, and she wishes me well. Of this I am confident. And in it all I thank God for His kindness to us both, and pray He blesses her remaining days on this earth. She gave me life, and for that alone deserves my honour and thanks.
And all the stories my scars tell, in relationship with mother, are stories that give honour and glory to the redeeming power of Jesus.
To you, my friends, who have the ‘perfect and ideal in every way’ relationship with your mothers, embrace it. Embrace her. Celebrate that sweetness. And to those whose relationships are wounded and scarred, join me in inviting God to redeem, and then embrace your journey, your story, and celebrate it.
To my mother, my mother-in-law, and every other mother out there… the ones with scars and wounds and broken hearts, as well as those living a dream… I wish you Mother’s Day blessings that run deep and never end. Blessings that supersede the stuff of life, and celebrate you: A Mother.
© Trudy Metzger
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