Few of us truly understand the importance of our parents in our upbringing until we become older, and that understanding is quadrupled after they are gone.
Although we lost our special lady 14 years ago, I often find myself thinking about Mother Marie and the person that she was. This is especially so prior to and during the weekend of Mother’s Day.
Mother spent the last four-plus years of her life in Sioux Falls residing in an independent/assisted living facility and it was during those years that I truly began to understand who she was and what made her special. I would preface my writing with the fact that Mother, like so many others in those last years of life, struggled. She dealt with surgeries, staph infections, arthritis, heart problems – to say nothing of adjusting to a totally different life than she led in her first 80 years. As wonderful as the folks who made Waterford go may have been, it was a far cry from her central South Dakota lifetime friends and family, the daily meals at Al’s Oasis and especially her trips to St. Mary’s church and the cemetery in Reliance. Yet she adjusted in a way that surprised all of us. Mother was a superstar at her Sioux Falls dwelling place. Even in the face of her own physical ailments, she was able to put the needs of her newfound friends above her own. She did so with humor and caring but mostly by her little Irish lady presence.
I would like to relate just a few of her off-the-cuff comments regarding old age. For example, returning from a hospital stay one afternoon she said, “You know, when you get to be my age, every change in your body is a symptom.”
How about the afternoon I stopped by on the way home from the Stockyards and upon entering the room I found her standing quietly staring at the ceiling. Without prompting she asked, “Have you ever gone into a room and forgot why you were there?”
Following my positive reply she said, “Ever in the bathroom?”
I never did know for certain if she was joking or not.
Oh, did I mention Marie’s stubborn streak? Never, I mean never, argue with her because even if you were right you weren’t going to win. A case in point would be one Christmas Eve when youngest brother, Kevin, and Mother were in a fairly heated discussion regarding Lord only knows what. Finally Kevin said, “Okay, Mother, now listen to me. Here are the facts.”
Without hesitation, she replied, “I’m not much into facts.”
One more, and this involves her beloved Ireland. My two sisters, Jeanne and Mary Alice, are the world travelers in the Woster family, and one of their favorite spots is the land of the shamrocks. Both would have dropped everything to take her, had she ever expressed the inclination. She refused to fly and during a discussion regarding that reluctance, Tom Reardon, a Sioux Falls business person and dear friend at Waterford commented, “What the heck Marie, when it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go.”
After a few seconds of thoughtful silence, Mother replied, “That may be but if I’m in a plane somewhere over the ocean and it’s the pilots time to go, I don’t want to go with him.”
Our Mother grew up in the midst of two world wars, a devastating depression and during a time when very little was questioned. She, like the vast majority of her generation, believed in a higher power and made do with what they had. They worked from dawn to dark seldom complaining and oftentimes caring for a parent who, because of age or a physical affliction lived with them in a small and crowded home.
Most importantly, they were silently teaching their children to do their best, remember their heritage and treat others as they wish to be treated. Although Mother rarely expressed the love she had for her family, we all knew and with age and a bit more wisdom, we knew and understood.
As I often try to do this time of year, I offer a simple reminder. If your mom is still with you, regardless of her physical or mental state, make time for her in your life. It will mean the world to her and you will be forever grateful that you did. From all of us at the Neighbor, may you moms have the best weekend ever.