the art of being my mother

Centered on the living room wall when I was growing up was a drawing that tore at me. It was of a woman, clearly weary, her head in one hand looking off to her left, a sleeping child draped over the other arm.

Not sure what was going  on here, but it was clearly important.
Not sure what was going on here, but it was clearly important.

While I now see the beauty in this art, as a child I believed my mother identified with it because of her own weariness with her lot in life, namely, me, and I felt a great deal of guilt over what I’d done to her.

We didn’t get along, my mother and me, until after my stepfather died when I was 28. By her own admission, her focus then changed from wife to mother.  It took us years to work through all the barriers. Issues remain today, but they aren’t the structure of our relationship.

I see her getting older and I’m constantly mindful of the fact she’s only a few years away from the age her parents were when they died. She’s on a fixed income and can barely afford her own needs month to month, yet she still jumps at the chance to give to me.

That’s what moms do, I guess, at least it’s what my mom does. I resisted it inside myself until I realized how important it was to her. I turn around and send her money when I can to help her in any small way.

A few years ago I went through terrible times, and it left its mark on me long after that. I was so deep in the pain of it myself I didn’t fully realize what my mom went through each day, wondering what I was undergoing and imagining the worst.

I need to keep to myself what is mine to know.

I hold back on telling her everything because it is too difficult to express. I don’t know that she should know all the details. I need to keep to myself what is mine to know.

Perhaps she did identify with the woman in that drawing, for reasons I’ll never really know. As one of the few pieces of art she’s kept through the years, it seemingly has meant something to her. Just as I don’t fully involve her in my experience, certainly she hasn’t fully involved me in hers.

I told her once, in a moment of reflection, what it had made me feel, and she simply said, “Really? I never knew.” Then smiled a little. “I always loved that picture.”

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Now, Right Now

It’s hard — so hard.

When you fear your world is about to turn upside-down, and there’s nothing you can do but pray and wait. When you think perhaps the inevitable is happening now.

When your heart cries out, “I’m not ready for this!” but your head tells you, “you’ll never be ready.”

When the practical mixes with the unimaginable.

It’s hard.


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

sibling revelry

Today I called my brother with some upsetting news. Once again, factors beyond my control were thwarting my plans to move forward.

He was the only one who would fully understand how challenging it would be for me, because he’d been with me from the start of the events that led to the distress of today.

My brother was there for me before I even knew I needed him.

belinda-thom-1962

Growing up, we weren’t close. It was my brother and sister who were allies, often, it felt, against me. Certainly I was on the outside.

Yet we share a history, sometimes a laughable yet now bonding one. Once, he asked if I remembered the cookie-eating bear from the Andy Williams Show, a popular variety program in our childhood.

I didn’t, and he was legitimately shocked, because I have a tremendous memory. He calls it memory for useless trivia, which is a little hurtful, because my memory includes much more than that.

Some months later there was a two-hour A&E biography about Andy Williams that I watched start to finish, just to see if this cookie-eating bear would be mentioned. He was, almost as an afterthought, in the last 30 seconds.

I sat through two hours of a biography I didn’t give a rip about just for my brother. I’d do an incomparable amount more if I could.

At the end of my phone call today, I gulped out a thank you for listening to me. He said, with a bit of surprise, “of course!” He’d said the same thing several years ago when I thanked him for flying out, at great expense, to be by my side at a time I can’t conceive of surviving alone.

He took over when I was absolutely lost, and later let go when I’d regained my strength, focus and independence. I’d never known what it was like to have someone value me that much before.

He’s two years younger than me, an age difference that become irrelevant sometime around high school. We started to connect more then.

I remember a sweet, red-haired girl who had, to say the least, a huge crush on him. We had a class together, and she talked about him endlessly to me. I really wanted him to reciprocate her feelings, but I knew full well he did not.

I was, however, proud of the way he treated her. Although he was clear he wasn’t equally interested, he let her know he thought her interest was a high compliment. Of course that just intensified her feelings for a time, but it was the right way to handle it.

me & Thom 1994
circa 1994

Now he has a daughter, sixteen years old, who no doubt brings all the frustrations a girl that age can carry. I hold my breath, then relax, as I watch him value her in the same concrete ways he values me and valued that cute girl in our high school years.

He’s proven there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me. In a lifetime we may or may not be lucky enough to fully show our love for those who mean the most to us.

I’ve been blessed to be on the receiving end of that love and sacrifice from my brother, a humbling and heartening experience for me. It has changed the core of me, my essential self.


A special thank you to those of you who have been following my blog long enough to remember this post!

I’ll Still Accept Gifts…

I wouldn’t want to win the lottery.

Managing all the money would be a burden, a task I’m not prepared to handle. Okay, one million dollars I might figure out. Even two. But start getting higher than that, and I’m out of my depth.

I expressed this thought once to a group of co-workers, and the response was immediate and forceful.

“Oh, I could figure out how to handle it!!”

“I have an uncle who works in a bank. He could help me.”

And there was the  woman who agreed with me, but for a slightly different reason. “I am totally the kind of person someone could take advantage of,” she said.

genieWinning the lottery is as realistic for me as getting three wishes from a genie, another gift I don’t think I would want to be burdened with in this lifetime. The tales of those who are granted those wishes always end badly, a moralistic story of greed and the perils of getting what you dream will make your life worth living.

After all, be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

I find the greatest pleasure in those items I’ve saved toward buying and perhaps purchased at some sacrifice. Nothing foolish, mind you, but choosing what I really want at the cost of something else.

The day I buy my sofa, I will treasure it. No, I won’t keep it covered in plastic. But my futon, with its lumpy mattress, has served its purpose and then some, and I’ve wanted a new sofa for a very long time. Last year I came this close to getting one. The opportunity to move to a much nicer place came along, and that ate up all my savings.

A genie in a bottle is a nice thought, but that genie doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

My life doesn’t need a free ride to make it better.


Special thanks to my family, all of those who have helped me get back on my feet at a time when I couldn’t do it by myself. Your ongoing support means the world to me. I won the lottery when it came to family.

Bottle

Image Credits: (Magic Bottle) © Bigstock; (Genie) © Fotolia

A Year Later

Hard to believe it’s been a year.

Last year on this day, at about this time, I got a text from my friend Laurie letting me know her brother, Monte, had died. We’d been expecting this news; he’d been battling cancer for several years. His treatment had been compromised in the beginning because he developed an infection after surgery, and eventually, it was evident he was going to lose the fight.

I’ve detailed Laurie’s story before, so I won’t go into it here, except to say, a few months before her brother died, her mother had passed away. I imagine yesterday, so close to the anniversary of Monte’s death and only the second Mother’s Day since losing her mom, might have been emotional.

Several of my friends lost their moms last year, and my heart goes out to all of them as they face the day with a sense of sorrow and longing. At least one woman had a challenging relationship with her mother, which brings with it a different, yet equally difficult, set of emotions.

My mom is still with me, and I’m grateful for every day. My dad, my brother and my sister are all still alive and healthy, and I know I’m lucky for that blessing as well.

To those who faced the loss of anyone you loved in the past year (and I include beloved pets, because their loss brings its own pain), may you find peace.

Peace, and purpose.


Photo Credit: © Bigstock

Another Year Older (and deeper in debt)

Well, tomorrow is my birthday…the years keep rolling by…I plan to celebrate! But it brings to mind this much-loved song from my childhood (well, a little before, but I heard it a lot as a kid):

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

— music and lyrics by Merle Travis

Well, whatever else may rain down on me, at least I’m not a coal miner. I know those who built their lives around the mines are often profoundly loyal, literally to a point of death, but from my lofty vantage point, there’s little return for the workers.

Abstract background of Department store interior , shallow depthWhen I worked part-time at a department store, I used to joke I “owed my soul to the company store.” Hey, my full-time job, at least in theory, paid the bills, so that was extra cash to spend as I pleased…and I did. I kept track, and about half of what I earned there went straight back to the company coffers.

Thirty years later, I still have some of the Marimekko dishes I purchased, one place setting at a time, always on sale, until I had nine settings (eight, plus a spare). So not everything was thrown away on clothes and makeup. The first setting I got on my birthday from my sister, Beth, who thankfully has good taste.

But I digress from my original point. Where was I going with this? Oh yes! Tomorrow is my birthday! Yup, another year older…but not really deeper in debt. Except for the debts of gratitude I owe so many people in my life.

  • My mom, who is always there for me in every way. She will sacrifice just about anything to help me. I would give her the moon if I could (although cash may be more practical).
  • My brother, who has proven his love and commitment to me in ways I can never repay. He has shown me the value of family, and more importantly, myself.
  • My dad, who is so in tune with my thinking (or I suppose it should be stated the other way around since I’m his offspring) and never fails to surprise me with just the right support when I need it most.
  • My friends Beverly and Bill, who, like family, gave me emotional and practical support, often at personal expense.
  • My best friend from college, Laurie, who “gets me” like few others — and still loves me!
  • My friend Deb, who thinks nothing of putting others before herself and finding the right gifts on any day of the year.
  • My blogging buddies, for all the support you’ve given me in the past two years, as well as the gift of your friendship…and blogs!!!

So many others, but I’ll keep the list concise so it doesn’t lose meaning.

Thank you, everyone of you, and have a piece of chocolate cake (or whatever) this Saturday — it’s my birthday, and I want to celebrate with you!

birthday cupcake

Another year older, and deeper in debt — to all who have given me love and support.


Make yourself smile today with this catchy tune from Tennessee Ernie Ford, which spent a combined 16 weeks at the top of the Billboard Top 100 and Top Country hits lists back in 1955-56. (And if you want a good laugh, look up the “Go-Go Version” on YouTube.)


Photo Credits: (Department Store) © torsakarin – Fotolia; (Birthday Cupcake) © Studio KIVI – Fotolia

All Who Are Weary, Eat

This Thanksgiving I’ll be with four other people who find themselves in much the same position I’m in: living in a city without family nearby to spend the holidays with. I have some cousins, second cousins, actually, living 20 or 30 minutes away, but seeing them would be much like seeing strangers.

I’ve had three invitations from local friends to join their family, and there’s a part of me that would like to have accepted their generosity. But truthfully, there’s a bigger part of me that looks forward to the time after the meal, when I come home and spend the time with my cats, knitting and watching classic movies.

I’ll enjoy my holiday, I have no doubt about it, both the time with friends and the time alone. I know two of the four people who will be sharing a meal with me; I believe I’ve met the other two but have barely spoken to them. Still, the two I do know are fun, and one of them in particular “gets” me. I’m free to be myself, quiet or goofy, whichever side comes out.

Growing up, I don’t really remember much about how we celebrated Thanksgiving. I believe we included friends who, like me today, have no family nearby with whom they can share the traditions and turkey, but I don’t remember any of them in particular.

me-mom-and-beth-thanksgiving-c-1997
Me, my mom and sister at Thanksgiving nearly 20 years ago, when I was living in Nashville, with no family nearby — they both flew out to see me. I still have that sweater…

I do remember, in my twenties, my mom and stepdad included a Russian couple and their grown daughter, and, for that matter, her fiancé (both were medical students, as I recall). Lisa, Misha and Olga were Russian Jews who had faced persecution under the Soviet Union, and they emigrated to the United States sometime while Olga was still fairly young. Misha, who had an advanced degree, was forced to take a job delivering pizza. Lisa was also highly educated, and she learned how to do nails to make a living. She did my mom’s nails; that was how they met.

It was appropriate to have immigrants at our Thanksgiving table. The tale we’re told of the first Thanksgiving is similar, with a group of European immigrants breaking bread with the Native Americans.

So as we celebrate with our family, friends, or by ourselves, let our thoughts include all those who face adversity in seeking a better, safer life. We cannot become complacent in the lives we lead. We must remember the sacrifices others made for us to give us what we have today, and be willing to open our doors to others who seek the same for the generations of their family to come.

God bless us, everyone.