Sunday, May 12, 2013

How Crazy Did Your Mother Make You?

May 12 is Mother's Day, as if Hallmark and its associates haven't reminded you enough.  Since you are reading this, I'll go out on a limb and say it is May 12 2013 or beyond, and, if you note the day, as perhaps my myriad Russian readers do not, you've either thought about or were in contact with your female parental representative.  I phrase it that way as Moms now come in all sizes, shapes and genders, biological or whimsical.  Some of the best Moms I've met in my travels did not follow the "traditional" way.

My mother would not fit the mold either. Oh, it was a traditional husband-wife (male-female) bond with three children.  She was a working mom from the early 1960s until the mid 1990s.  She did office work, mostly, and saw the way things work in small offices - where being pals, golf buddies, good old boys worked with all the other males that were employed mostly assuredly kept that glass ceiling in place, no matter how much of a dunderhead the male in charge was.

Lesson for Tom: Since you're shy anyway, go where merit will do it. Take a civil service test. I did, and, after a few years, became a supervisor of staffs from 4 to 40, and was ready to take the place of previously hired dunderheads.

My mother was told she was smart by the teachers at her high school.  This was 1941.  She was told she could do well in college.  Then she met my father, a handsome devil from South Troy, and other things got in the way.  Pearl Harbor.  My father was drafted, and my mother played Rosie the Riveter building the bombers that helped my father win the war all by himself.  My Dad had some liberty time in 1944. and 9 months later my older brother was born.  No more thoughts of college.  I know she was sad she never made it.  But she raised three kids.  I was the surprise 1956 baby.

Lesson for Tom: You never know what can happen, so keep your eye on the prize, but adjust, adjust, and accept. I finished with a Master's degree, and handed both my mother and wife diplomas of gratitude also that day.

My mother's mom Frances died May 1961.  I vaguely recall the day, probably because of the high emotion.  Frances was a single mom who actually was divorced in the 1930s (scandal!) and raised her two children on her own, with a little help from her own parents.  My uncle Jim was a Marine, was on Iwo Jima, came home and raised three kids with his wife Kay.  The first home movies we have are of my parents and my aunt and uncle playing badminton, and having a great time.  My mother thought her mom was a saint, and its hard to disagree.

Frances, me, and my father's mom Julia.  I have no clue why I am ironing.

Lesson for Tom: As Crosby, Stills, and Nash said "And you, of tender years, can't know the fears that your elders grew by."  Be grateful for life and what your parents did for you.  Pay them back by living a good life.

By 1970 both grandmothers were gone, and my mother's father was just a blip on a screen. I met him twice.  He had another family in Ohio.  I met a half cousin once.  My father's father died in the 1930s, and he gets his own column sometime. So things moved on, and my brother and sister got married and moved out, and then my father got sick, and died.  This is when I started seeing my mother in a different light.  It took my own road to mental illness to see this light.

My mother was bi-polar, and this came from her Mom who suffered from depression.  She was never necessarily diagnosed, except by her bipolar son, me. (There is no rule on this, but sometime we, as bipolar, can see "One of us"). It has made the last twenty years more understandable.  My mother watched as her mother, husband and daughter died slowly.  She saw herself moving from decent middle class life to someone who needed support from her two sons, and shut herself off emotionally  except for anger at everyone.  She cried, raged, and railed at the world, punishing God by not believing, and everyone else for not being who she wanted.  She could, of course, be nice, kind and adored by little children and her great grandchildren and strangers in a store by sharing her sense of humor.  She was and could be a great lady to be around. And she took to Jackie's sister's family as another Grandma.

My mother died on May 12, 2001.  Today is May 12, 2013, Mother's Day.  She never saw my mental decline, suicide attempt, diagnosis and rebirth. Nor the MS that would hit from my father's side of the family. She'd be angry that I was hit, but, I hope, proud of how I've handled it, using some of her cues. Her lessons were observed, noted, and followed or not.

But all is forgiven.  That is the lesson. Patience, understanding, caring, doing the best you can. Good lessons.  Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and all moms.

Thank you, Mom.

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