My 33rd Year

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I’ve read before, that motherless daughters often feel as if they will die at the same age their mothers were when they passed away.  For me, that age was 33.

 

At a time in my life when I should have been coming into my own, I was anything but… I never could visualize myself as a mother or even as I might be when “I grew up.”   I was frozen in limbo yet desperately wanting to know exactly when I would die during my 33rd year, for I knew it would happen.  Would it be on my birthday?  Would it happen in the middle of the year or cruelly on the day before I turned thirty-four?  Anxiously I approached that year and every day until it was over.  I lived in a constant state of uncertainty.

 

During my 33rd year I got divorced, changed careers, gave up sleeping and lost ten pounds.  Sadly, and now with compassion, I look back at my perplexing choices and addled behavior and wonder how I made it through.  I must forgive myself for not being totally present for my children, knowing now, that I was doing the best I could.  I must forgive myself for not being present for me.  My 33rd year was brutal and frightening and even now, brings me to tears.

 

I have lived 30 years past my mother’s age at the time of her death.  I slowly and methodically pulled out of that 33rd year and must say I’m finally growing into my own.  I am not without scars and memories of that time, but the intensity has lessened.
I truly am grateful for my extra years.  I think God knew I would need an extension to get it all together, in fact, I’m still getting it all together.  In the end, isn’t that what life’s all about?

Friendships

 

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There are so many different types of friendships.  Childhood friends; co-workers; acquaintances who upgrade to friend status for a specific purpose or activity, the list is endless.  But, to a motherless daughter, a true friendship is a healing balm, an anchor to this world that helps her stay grounded.

A girl who has lost her mother at an early age, lost her teacher, her road map as to how to have and be a ‘girl friend.’  Often there was no time spent on mother-daughter activities.  Shopping together or just hanging out is a foreign idea to the daughter who has no clue how to begin and sustain a friendship.  She has no idea what girls ‘do’ or how they act or think.  As is sometimes the case, the motherless daughter got her cues on how to ‘be’ from her father, sibling or another caregiver.  Her primary role model, her first friend is missing.

To the friend of a motherless daughter, you might not realize your importance…the value of your friendship is immeasurable.

You might not realize how much your consistency and trustworthiness is relied upon and what that safety means.

You might not realize how your love, laughter and advice provides  strength and support to walk through this life.

You might not realize these things, but they are real.  Your ability to be present is a gift from above, to be cherished more than silver or gold.

Maybe, just maybe, the mothers in heaven get a sayso in sending the perfect friendships to their daughters.  You might not realize it, but these true connections are divine.  And God said, “This is good.”

 

Desert Rose

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Parts of my childhood are shrouded in a thin veil of mist.  Of course there are the big things like school, vacations or birthdays, but many of my day to day memories are vacant.

For example, I never knew that my mother had chosen Desert Rose dishes when she and my dad married.  After she died, my dad packed them away.  It seems he couldn’t stand all of the memories and yet everything was a reminder.

When I got a little older, he finally showed me the dishes.  At first glance I thought how old fashioned they were.  I knew I wanted something more modern and less flowery.  I recall distinctly the look on his face when I muttered my displeasure.  Only now, looking back, do I see the whole story.  To my dad, these dishes symbolized my mother and the life they had had.  To me, at the time, they were just flowery dishes packed away in the garage.

I never remembered the dishes being used or a meal being prepared.  Years would come and go…husbands, moves, children etc, until I finally grew up.  Emotional immaturity seems to plague some of us motherless daughters, as we often freeze at the time of our loss.  The thawing out of feelings and emotions can take a long time.

My modern dishware changed through the years.  I was never satisfied with whatever type or pattern I chose.  Nothing was quite right until I saw those Desert Rose dishes again, when my Dad was moving to a retirement home.  I wanted those dishes and I knew in my heart I was ready for them.  Nothing else would do;  nothing else had stood the test of time and still maintained its classic status.

As if the universe was celebrating my maturity too, Auntie Sue called and offered me her set of Desert Rose dishes.  Now,  I have a large collection that I proudly use everyday.   Am I blessed?  Yes, beyond measure.  Am I grateful?  More than I can ever say.  I feel like a Desert Rose blooming for the first time.  The Desert Rose is slow growing, but it is also beautiful, classic and durable.  Amen.

 

 

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Mothering Motherless

 

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Being a motherless mother has its own set of rules, fears and thought patterns.  I cannot speak for all motherless mothers, yet, what I’m about to say  will make perfect sense to them.

I used to have an idealistic vision of myself as a parent.  I was not prepared for this overwhelming feeling that I wanted my mother.  For me, because  my mother died when I was so young, I did not have a mature enough mindset to even begin to grieve her, until I became a mother.

As strange as it may seem, I felt blindsided with emotions and grief because all of a sudden I was stepping into ‘her’ realm, motherhood.  Which also meant, that something bad might happen.  It could happen to me and it could happen to my children.

I had an overshadowing feeling of fear.  I was afraid I was doing “it” all wrong, after all, I never even remembered being mothered, how could I know what to do?  I read Dr. Spock’s book, watched and asked my friends and constantly second guessed my ability to mother.  While this was happening, I was simultaneously severely over protective and fearful about everything.  Neurotic?  For sure.

These feelings would seem to settle down until a new phase of development would begin.  How do I know the right thing to do?  I couldn’t ask my mother and I needed her reassurance so much.  I kept telling my children that I loved them.  I wanted them to know, really know.  But, then the questions would start…what if they forgot? Or what if I died, would they be able to remember my words?  My voice?

Every since becoming a mother, I have had the stark realization that I could die at any time.  The year I turned 33 was the longest and most dreaded year of my  life.  My mother died when she was 33.  While I knew intellectually it (probably) would not happen, emotionally I waited for those 365 days to pass, so I would know for sure.

I have made it well past the age of 33 and now even both of my girls are past that age.  I’ve learned a lot about living from this fear of dying and I know in my heart, that my mother was giving me her love and assurance all along. I see it now and I can look back without staring, without blame.   I can forgive myself for some of those crazies and  breathe a little more deeply.

 

 

Dear Motherless Daughter

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Nothing and no one can replace my mother.  I’ve lived 59 years without her and I know this to be true for me.  Nothing and no one.

A lot of people tried to comfort me by saying, “But, you had your father, your brother and a family of your own.”  That is also true, however, I had all those people and I still didn’t have a mother.  While I cannot speak for all motherless daughters, I can say for myself that not having a mother has affected me in every area of my life and the years have not erased the deep need I have for a mother, my mother.

Every true friend I have had, every man I have loved has known this fact about me.  There are plenty of others who don’t know that I am motherless and have assumed that I have “it all” and don’t know the meaning of loss or adversity.  To this I would say two things:  1.)  don’t assume you know everything about anybody and 2.)  if  you didn’t know this about me, then I might not have felt safe enough to tell you.

I have said these words a million times, “My mother died when I was four years old.”  But, it’s what I haven’t said that tells you the deeper meaning.  When my grandson was four years old, I looked at him and wondered to myself  how I ever lived with such loss.  Four is such a tender age, and to think of a soul wounding at that age and continuing to live until now at 63, is nothing short of a miracle.

I know my words may make you uncomfortable, downright uneasy, but what is buried alive never dies.  Put another way, I have to speak out, tell the world what it is like for us, the walking wounded.  I am sorry if my story makes you sad or my descriptions seem too harsh.  “Let it go”, you might be thinking, “Time heals all wounds, ” but to you I will say that we all have some places in our  hearts that need healing.  Look inward, take what you like and leave the rest.

My fellow motherless children, (you know who you are), you are not alone.  Keep reading.  At least I hope you do, for there is a language we know; a knowledge we have that unites us in kinship.  We share something that bonds us into eternity and gives us hope that someday…that hole will be filled up…..to the top.  We all take a different path to find our healing.  The balm of time may heal the wound, but the scar never quite disappears.  We are forever changed.

Mary Frances by Nancy Malcolm

 

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We were two sweet gals from the south…both tall, young and naive.  We were far from home and had big dreams and soon we would marry brothers.   Nothing prepares you for being a grown up.  You think it does and you think you are grown, but at twenty years old, are you?  We thought so!  Thus began my friendship and sisterhood with Mary Frances.

Let’s get right down to it…it was the best of times and the worst of times!  Frannie and I began our married life to brothers in the 70’s.  We learned to cook, work, raise children and have plenty of fun all in the safety net of each other’s friendship.  We came into our own….together.

From the very beginning we have been cooking and hosting our own holiday dinners.  We had many a near miss with a turkey or two (pun intended) and yet we pulled off gorgeous and scrumptious Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at the tender age of 21.    We made gravy, dressing and cranberry sauce without a hitch and pies to make your mouth water.  And the family favorite for years were the ‘Angel Biscuits’, delicious yeast rolls from scratch.

Frannie was the first to have a baby and we both admit, it was quite a learning curve.  You’ll be happy to know Frannie’s child grew up to be just fine, but we had many a near miss with her and too many giggles to count.  I like to think that Frannie and I were a cross between Thelma and Louise and Lucy and Ethyl.  What’s really funny is that we would ask each other’s advice on something and neither one of us had any experience or knowledge of what to do.  Something about the blind leading the blind comes to mind.

It is so sweet to me now that we are both grandmothers.  We survived our raising and our children survived theirs….and now, these beautiful creatures, called grandchildren are here.  They are all precious and a sign from above that all things work together for the good.

Our lives were enmeshed and our families entwined, but it is our hearts that bonded as only sisters could.  I have learned a lot from Mary Frances.  I have experienced much of my adult “growing up” with her and we have seen the good things in life and felt the bad like a heavy steel door slamming shut.  We have loved and lost.  We have laughed and cried.  We have celebrated and grieved and never lost that pulse that beats between us, as sisters.

I read once that “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”  I hope to always be that friend to her and she to me.  It won’t matter how long between our visits because time and circumstances will never erase our hearts.

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Miss Hooper

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by Nancy Malcolm

My mother died of a brain tumor when I was four years old.  Because of that, my daddy thought it best that I not go to kindergarten that next year.  He thought it might be too much for me to be thrust into the world and forced to leave the safety of my home.  Needless to say, when I finally turned six and was eligible for first grade, I was elated.  I remember distinctly the red plaid dress my grandma had made me for my first day of school.  And so it was to be, I happily walked to school with my big brother and joined the other children at Wolflin Elementary School in Amarillo, Texas, 1959.

Miss Ruth Hooper was my first grade teacher.  She was a handsome woman, very tall and thin.  She had never been married and as my daddy would say, “she was an old maid school teacher, a spinster”.  Miss Hooper also attended our church, First United Methodist in downtown Amarillo.  I think she always saw my dad in a different light, after all, he was a tall, good looking widower with a promising career.  I always did think she had a crush on him.

There are two defining moments inside of my first grade year.  The first involves an “accident”.  Because, I had not been to kindergarten, I was very shy and reserved at school.  We were all sitting in our seats, silently working on our handwriting, or something equally important, when I suddenly felt the urge to pee.  I glanced up to the front of the room and I saw  Miss Hooper sitting straight laced at her desk, grading papers.  The length of the row of desks might as well of been the length of a football field.  “Maybe it will pass”, I thought, “I can hold it”.  After much inner debate, I finally stood up to make the long walk to the front and ask to go to the restroom.  I wanted to cry, run and pee all at the same time, and finally with my last ounce of courage, I made it to her desk.  Just as she glanced up and I began to open my mouth, “it” happened.  I peed right then and there, standing beside my teacher.

What happened next was one woman’s act of compassion.  Miss Hooper, quickly turned over the tall metal tumbler full of water perched on her desk. She jumped up and apologized to me for getting me wet.  She excused us from the class and took me to the office, so I could go home to change.  She hugged me and told me everything would be ok and we never spoke of it again.  Her compassion and kindness has stayed with me all these years and has inspired me to show the same for the students I would later teach in my own classroom.

The second defining moment was when our first grade class was in charge of a PTA meeting.  Miss Hooper chose students to say the Pledge of Allegiance; carry the flag and sing.  I was chosen to recite the Bible verse for the evening. Recite, not read.  For days I studied the 23rd Psalm.  I would have to walk up to the microphone, alone, and recite the Psalm from memory.  I remember standing there at the microphone and reciting the verses, but what I remember most is that all of a sudden, my daddy’s face came into focus and I could see him in the audience, smiling at me and encouraging me to go on.  To this day, the 23rd Psalm is my favorite Bible verse and holds a special place in my heart.  I’ve often wondered why she chose me and why this verse, but I know why… I needed it.

So, thank you, Miss Ruth Hooper.  You taught me to read and write, but you also taught me about compassion and grace and the power of God’s word.

My first grade year, was the first of many years that I would learn life lessons.  I am so grateful for her and for all the ways she blessed me and restored a piece of my broken heart.  I think it is so true, that we may never know all the ways we touch other people’s lives.  We hold the power of compassion, mercy and love in our smiles and in our actions.  You just never know when you will be someone’s miracle.