Remembering My Mother

r1959-2   r1961

Somehow in thinking about what to write about for Mother’s Day, the church’s Family Fishing Day got in the way of something more relevant. But it’s not too late to write about my mother.

As I’ve mentioned sometime or other on this blog, I’m adopted. So I don’t know who my birth mother was or anything about my ancestry. Yes, I get a little curious at times, but at this stage of my life I’m not interested in looking. No need to. As far as I’m concerned, Virginia Williford Bruner was the only mother I needed.

She was–as was customary in that far-distant time–a stay-at-home mom. So she was always available. While my memories of childhood are spotty, I do remember some specific things about her.

She had a number of health issues that limited the housework and other activities she could participate in. Consequently, as a teen I had to do the vacuuming for what seemed like years. I also have a vague recollection of having to take down the Venetian blinds periodically and wash them in the tub. Yuck!

She was a wonderful pianist until her rheumatoid arthritis got so bad she could no longer play. Although she played hymns, too, she was especially fond of the classics. And she would’ve  fully supported piano lessons if I’d been willing to take them. As it was, though, she was fascinated with the fact that I could sit down at the piano and pick some things out.

She was an excellent cook. I remember the cakes with caramel icing (I preferred the chocolate cakes, though). And bacon waffles, made with strips of bacon lying the full width of the waffle. And the cinnamon rolls. Yum! Oh, and gingerbread with a special white “hard sauce.” I’ve never seen or heard of anything like it since.

She taught the Sunday School class I attended as an older teen. She spent hours in preparation and did an excellent job of teaching. She seemed popular with the other class members and I enjoyed being in her class.

Truth be known, I wasn’t as close to either of my parents as many kids are. I’ve long said they reared me to be independent and they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. When I left home for college and then moved away to teach school, they asked for one letter a week. That was before email and free long distance. I complied with that request, although not always with enthusiasm.

I visited them several times during the school year, mostly on holiday weekends. I occasionally took trips elsewhere on holidays, though, since I didn’t feel overly tied to being where my parents were.

One thing I’ll never cease to be thankful for was Mother’s suggestion that I might enjoy computer programming and her offer to pay for me to take enough classes to make a career change. What a difference that made in my life–especially in my job satisfaction.

She was supportive of my first marriage, even though she didn’t meet Debbie until she and Father went to Illinois for the wedding. In spite of her health problems, she insisted on making the two hundred mile trip with my father when our baby, Beth, died three days after she was born; that was almost four years later. Mother and Debbie probably talked daily for years once we finally ended up living in the same city.

Mother loved our adopted daughter, Kristi, whom she insisted would certainly become a lawyer because she loved to argue so much. Unfortunately, Kristi was so rambunctious as a small child that Mother never felt comfortable having her over without one of us being there. By the time Kristi had calmed down some, my father had died. My mother died a year later.

I got to know my mother better than ever during the final year of her life. Sharing things we talked about then would be too personal to do here, but I became her driver, grocery shopper, and occasional handyman. (Fortunately, she had someone to come in periodically to do the cleaning.) And I was the one to find her dead in bed after what was presumably a massive stroke.

I became her friend that final year. And she became mine.

Is there a better way to remember a deceased parent than as a friend?

What about you? Were you close to your mother? Do you have any particular memories you’d like to share in a comment?

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Advertisements

Memories of my Maternal Grandparents

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may be surprised at the subject of today’s post. Especially if you recall that I don’t remember a lot of things from my childhood. My theory about forgotten memories is that the encephalitis that almost killed me at age fifteen probably did a number on the part of the brain that housed memories prior to my near-fatal illness.

But for some reason–totally unknown–I’ve been having random thoughts the past few days about my maternal grandparents. And memories I’m certain haven’t come to mind in years.

My mother was a Williford. She grew up in a tiny town in North Carolina, Aulander, the only daughter of Bob and Virgie. Miss Virgie was a home maker, the most common thing for a woman to be in those days. She also wrote poetry, however, some of which was published in the local newspaper.

Captain Bob–I’ll probably never know why people referred to him that way–worked at a brick mill for a number of years. I believe he retired because of an on-the-job injury that affected the use of one hand.

The Williford family lived in what to a small child seemed like a pretty good sized house with a wrap-around front porch and a huge magnolia tree out front that was perfect for throwing darts and pocket knives at. The living room had a space heater that–at times–seemed to take up half the room. But it was the only heat in the house.

I sometimes had to sleep in an upstairs bedroom. On a good night, I got to use the one directly over the living room, which had a vent in the floor that let heat rise from the room below–until time came to cut it off for the night.

The refrigerator was on the screened in back porch. I couldn’t tell you what else was there, but it was a lengthy porch that was parallel to the kitchen on one side and the bathroom on the other. But, like the rest of the house, it seemed pretty old.

The kitchen had a wood stove. We ate in the dining room, which was adjacent to the kitchen. I have vague memories of fried chicken that was wonderful, corn bread I wasn’t especially fond of, and chocolate cake I could never get enough of. Strangely enough, one of my dining room memories is of a cloth being laid over the table after the mid-day meal to keep the flies off the food rather than the leftovers being refrigerated.

Captain Bob also did some farming. In the backyard was a smokehouse, although I don’t recall seeing any meat hanging there. The backyard also had a small fenced in area. For dogs or children? I never knew. There were a number of stray cats around, but I never saw any dogs.

A long dirt lane ran beside the house from the main road all the way past whatever crops Captain Bob was growing. How many times did I walk that often muddy lane to the very end to watch him slop the hogs? Perhaps not an appealing thought to me as an adult, but it was fascinating as a child.

My mother had brothers. I can’t recall now how many. At last count, all but one of them had died. Captain Bob was a smoker, and I believe all of the boys did, too. All except for one. My mother never smoked. But the second-hand smoke she was exposed to during her growing up years led to emphysema and other heart-related illnesses.

And how could I ever forget Miss Minnie? She lived in a little shack on the Williford property and helped with the cooking and cleaning. She was undoubtedly considered a maid in the old fashioned sense of the word. A wonderful black lady the whole family loved and depended on.

By the time Miss Virgie and Captain Bob died, I was no longer very close to them. In fact, I was not taken to North Carolina for their funerals. Sometimes I regret that. Not so much missing the funerals, but the fact of not so much missing them.

That’s about all I remember, but I’m thankful that those things have come to mind. Sometimes my lack of memories about the past, the kind of things everyone else remembers in detail, almost makes me feel that I have no past. Too often my past begins with my encephalitis.

Thank You, Lord, for bringing these things to mind. And for reminding me that my present and my future are–like my past–in Your hands.

Do you have anything to say about memories in general, about your past, or about specific things you recall better than you do others? How about leaving a comment?

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

What “Good Old Days”?

Old people–sometimes mid-lifers, too–are known for their tendency to talk endlessly about “the good old days.” I don’t do that.

Yes, of course I remember a few good things from my childhood and youth and occasionally mention them to someone. But not as many things or as often as some people I know. Too much of my young life was darkened by an unwanted move when I was eight years old.

I’d never expected to be uprooted and have to leave friends and familiar things–my whole life, seemingly–and relocate to a new city in another state and start life all over again from scratch. I was hurt and angry. So I wasn’t inclined to try to adjust. Consequently, I spent a number of years growing fatter and more miserable.

Not exactly what I’d call “good old days.”

Moving away from there was a pleasure–I wouldn’t have cared where we went–and I hoped things would be better with the new city. I was a pre-teen then, however, and growing into adolescence is tough–no matter what.

But when I came down with acute viral encephalitis during the eighth grade and almost died, what hope I might’ve had for a better life seemed to die, even though I lived. Recovery was long and stressful, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt nearly as strong and “normal” as I had before.

I can’t say whether my very small store of memories from childhood and my early teen years is a result of the encephalitis, but the memories I have are sketchy and sporadic. I don’t remember that much about high school or college, either. Even a lot of my adult life seems to be blurred or at last hiding in some inaccessible spot in my brain.

All of that to say I am not an old person who thinks back to the good old days. I remember too many days that aren’t worth talking about and too few to bother talking about.

If I  sound miserable talking about my past, I apologize. The fact is I’m not overly concerned about a past that seems, well, to be so very far in the past. I’m more interested in the present, anyhow. And in the future.

Being able to wake up every day and function just as well as I did the day before is more wonderful than you can imagine. Productive projects that keep me productively busy are definitely something to be thankful for. And the assurance of Heaven someday is far beyond wonderful.

I’m not in a rush to get there, you understand. But I’m thankful I have eternal life in God’s presence to look forward to. It will be perfect in every way this earthly life has so often proven imperfect.

What about you? Are you focused on the past, the present, or the future? How about leaving a comment?

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger