Birthday Thoughts

February 28, 2010

My mom would have celebrated her 92nd birthday today. Her name was Viola, a name my daughter shares. Her friends called her Vi. My cousins called her Aunt Vi-lola. My kids called her Gram. Actually, my son first called her mom. Most likely because that’s what he heard me say.

She was widowed at 56, 57 when I married, and just shy of her 76th birthday when she died. I reflect on these numbers now because in my mid-fifties, I often find myself thinking about our similarities and differences. Being a grandmother has given me yet another comparison to draw from, being just a few years younger than when her first grandchild came along.

Except for brief periods of my life, we kept in close contact. When I was in college, we communicated on an “as needed” basis, admittedly more to meet my needs, than hers. After my father’s passing I moved back home. I wish she would have made me stay in school, but she didn’t. Within a year, I set up a household of my own. We loved each other, but didn’t like each other so much when we lived under the same roof. After a brief cooling off period, we spoke to each other almost daily.

It was a small amount of time set aside from a busy day to say good morning, what’s on your plate for the day, and I love you. It’s interesting to think about how communication has changed over the years. In the mid-seventies, the phone was our only option, limited by the length of the coiled cord, and the calling area. Remember long distance? There were no cell phones, but phone booths aplenty, if you had a quarter.  No e-mail, Twitter, Chat, or Facebook to read. For a young mother, there were no mommy-blogs, parenting networks, or Google. It’s hard to remember life without Google. But there was always mom. And she was only a phone call away.

After my brother married and moved away, there was the two of us.  We usually spoke in the morning, and again in the evening. She was alone and there was some comfort in knowing she was up for the day or home for the night. As she grew older, it was a necessity. But for the most part, I wanted to share my life with her. Still, after all these years, when something exciting happens I get the urge to pick up the phone and call, quickly followed by the sad realization that she is not there anymore to answer. And then I miss her.

Truth be told, she depended on me – our family. We helped with the yard work and the odd jobs that needed done. I went out once a week to sweep her hair up into that french curl. Sometimes the kids and I had to set time aside to make the drive out, but it was worth it to her. And as I look back, it was worth it to us, as well. As she got older, she would talk about how hard it was to get up and down the stairs. Now I walk the same stairs daily, and I understand. Often, more often lately, I find myself thinking this house is too big to keep up, and I understand. I think of my kids, and I understand.

It really wasn’t much different a relationship than most of my friends had with their mothers, back in the day. In fact I tested this theory with my friends at work and found that to be true, even today. For some time, I carried a sense of guilt about the close relationship I had with my mom. Perhaps over the years it had been at the expense of my family. It’s baggage I’ve decided not to carry around anymore. It seems like a little thing, but there is great comfort in this resolution. Sharing the sometimes menial details of our day-to-day lives was a good thing.

Finally there is a sense of satisfaction here. It was time well spent, even if only for two people. My mom and I.


3 Responses to “Birthday Thoughts”

  1. the.squirrel Says:

    You know I recognize a good portion of this post from a long conversation that evolved over rib-eye steaks and baked potatoes and proceeded down those very stairs to the ‘man-cave’… Love you and miss you – {{hugs}} from ‘The Best Town on Earth’ —

  2. Molly Says:

    Touching post Gene, you and your mom must have had a wonderful relationship. I know from our conversations that she was quite a lady.

  3. gawilli Says:

    Josh – You probably do recognize some or all of this, beside the fact that you lived it! I have been rolling it around in my mind for a few weeks. BTW, man-cave! Ha!

    Molly, we did have a good relationship, although I realize that more now. She was quite a lady.

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