Saturday, November 10, 2007


Today is a day that is very special to me, within my Mom's side of the family.

Today would have marked my mother's 98th birthday. She died twenty eight years ago of colo-rectal cancer.

Today also marks another birthday on my Mom's side of my family as well. It is the birthday of the youngest of my cousins - Becky.

The relationship I had with my Mom often left a lot -a whole lot -to be desired. I don't know when our relationship began to go downhill - probably when I entered those nasty angst-filled teen years I suppose - but whenever it was, whatever brought about the antagonism that often existed between us, it just never remitted, never went away.

And I do regret that today.

I wish we'd had the type of mother-daughter relationship where we could sit and talk over a cup of coffee about the things we enjoyed, the people we loved, the dreams we once had, the ones we still held on to as well. But, there are very few times that I can remember ever sitting and talking in a manner that even remotely resembled something like what I described above.

I never told my Mom how I really felt about her while she was alive mainly I suppose because we were always at odds, and I very much regret not having been able to speak openly, to show her that for all the fights we had over the years, many on a daily basis, it did not by any way, shape or form mean I didn't love her.

I never told her how when I was 7-8 years old and she went to work up in Niagara Falls and I stayed with my grandparents and then, my grandparents and I moved up to Jamestown, NY to live with my Mom's older sister and her husband, that when she would come down from the falls for a weekend visit, when she left, I would walk along the sidewalk up to the corner intersection where she would turn to head north out of town towards Buffalo. And, I would wave goodbye to her as I walked along and then, would stand at the corner watching her car until it was no longer in sight - crying at her leaving me behind. But, she never ever saw me cry because you see, I was a tough little trooper and was staying in Jamestown because Grandpa would be lost without having me there with him, don't 'cha know? And yes, that I did know, that I did understand and that's why I couldn't let her see me cry when she left me behind.

My Mom was a registered nurse but besides that, she was also many other things too. She was an excellent seamstress - often did tailoring type work for people in the neighborhood, altering clothing for them. Her sewing ability and mine -well suffice it to say it was often a thorn in her side because she was a perfectionist and well, I'm not! Mom could do just about anything around the house too - carpentry, plumbing, masonry - Mom could and did do it all! About the only thing she wouldn't even think of tackling was anything to do with electricity because she was terrified of that type of work. Mom wasn't a fancy cook, but she could put together a decent meal. She played the piano, had been the organist for the Sunday School in the old church in town we belonged to when I was very small. She was a hard worker - often taking private duty cases when I was young and working the midnight shift there, then coming home to taking care of my grandparents, me, this big old house, all the yardwork, helping my Grandfather with the huge garden he planted year after year, cutting the lawn with a reel type albeit it power mower that required a whole lot of muscle and power just to move it across the lawn! (And did I mention we had at the time I was a kid, a VERY big lawn in those days too!) She would get out and dig the ditches that had to be dug almost every fall it seemed when the roots from a certain old pine tree would entwine around the clay pipes to the plumbing coming from our bathroom and manage to clog up the works between the house and the septic tank. She would don big old boots and go trench out the drainage ditch in the back portion of the yard to make sure there was a clear path for the wash water to follow on its course down to the sulfur creek well behind the house too. In the winter, it was nothing for her to go out and shovel the snow from the long alley way that ran between our house and the neighbors down to our garage about 80 feet behind the house. And somewhere in between, she would sew, maybe knit, read occasionally too before grabbing a few short hours of sleep to go back to work by 11 p.m. at night.

Yes, Mom was one heck of a hard worker over the years. Although I did my fair share of working some long hours on plenty of occasions, I still could never hold a candle to all she could achieve in a day's time.

Mom was by many of the standards of the 50's, early 60's pretty much a liberal parent. Well, at least she never forbid me from reading any of the books I ever brought home to read anyway like some of the parents of some of my friends often did. She might kind of raise an eyebrow over some of the literature I read but she never said "No way, not in MY house is MY daughter going to read THAT!" Nope, she left it up to my judgment and I truly think it was one of the best decisions she ever put into practice with my upbringing there.

My Mom, the summer between 1st and 2nd grade for me, commandeered my older cousin Carl to come stay most of the summer here with us and had him as her assistant while she set up frames, hauled sand home in the trunk of our old car, mixed up concrete and she and Carl built the steps and sidewalk that went from the road in front of the house down to the front door, around the entire one side of the house and ended at the cellar door! She was really proud of the accomplishment she and Carl had made with that effort. They even collaborated and built a nifty brick fireplace down in the backyard too! I'd like to think I could do the cement work but the carpentry involved, building the framing for the sidewalks and such, way beyond my skills and I do mean WAY beyond there! She amazed a lot of folks around the neighborhood by some of the things she would tackle -even built the cement riser in the basement on which the oil furnace was placed when she had the heat system converted from coal to oil. I can remember the guy who installed the furnace asking her who had built that for her and the look on his face when she informed him she had done it herself. He wasn't accustomed to coming in contact with a woman who could and would do what was generally considered to be a "man's work."

I could probably write a book about my Mom and some of the things she did -some which weren't always very appreciated by her siblings, by me, by my cousins either at times. Who knows, maybe someday I will but not today. Yes, you can breathe a sigh of relief there! LOL

But today, since as I said above, it is Mom's birthday as well as my younger cousin's -I just wanted to say very belatedly, post-humus to Mom, how much I loved her - still do -and how much I miss her, fights and all, still today. And to Becky - kiddo -in many ways you remind me of Mom - generally quiet, purposeful though, strong in your beliefs, giving of yourself to your family and for just being you, hope you had a happy, happy birthday today!

And, also - to tell you "I love you!" and I'm very thankful to have had my Mom for the years I did and that I still have Becky there as my "baby" cousin today! Nothin' finer, ya know!


Shelby said...

I know you must miss your mother terribly... sending hugs and what a beautifully precious post !!

lattégirl said...

Such a beautiful post. The image of you standing at the corner as she drove away just about broke my heart. You are very generous to describe all her hard-working and good qualities even though you admit you didn't get along all that well. You've is overlooked the flaws of a regular human being and drawn a loving portrait.

Have a good Sunday, Jeni.

Anonymous said...

Wow, touching post! I miss my mother now. She's in the Philippines with my siblings, but I know she's lonely over there. To overcome her sadness, she goes to church for service. She's a devout Catholic.

I want to tell more but I guess I'll put it on my blog for a more detailed information when the time is right.

Thanks for sharing this story, Jeni.


masgblog said...

p.s. - I hope the mittens work out for you.....

Linda said...

This is exactly why I told my father exactly how I felt before the cancer had a chance to kill him. I didn't want to have any regrets in my later life because I didnt' tell him that despite the fact we argued most of the time, were both as stubborn as bulls, and he never seemed to approve of what I did, that I still loved him and respected him. I am so thankful I had that chance.

This was a lovely post and I'm sure that somehow, your Mom knows how you felt despite all.

Travis Cody said...

What a wonderful tribute. I enjoy the way you write.

Patois42 said...

A wonderful post you've woven. Happy birthday to the ladies in your family, wherever they are.

Theresa said...

Sometimes we treat strangers better than family members- because we feel our family will always be there for another day- great rememberance of your mom, and a great reminder to tell the ones you love- that you do love them.

Linda Murphy said...

What a honest and beautiful post. It is amazing to love someone despite all of your differences.