I remember often wondering in her last years of life if I would miss her when she died. It wasn’t that we didn’t have a connection, or that I had a bad relationship with her. In fact, we played very well together! It was just that we never quite learned how to bring our FULL selves to each other.
And yet… I miss her…. in the past almost-six months since she died, thank God I miss her.
Because it’s in those times that I miss her that I find my memory Mom — the one I had before her age and her Parkinsons turned my role from daughter to reluctant part-time caretaker.
When I miss Mom now, it’s often little Starla (aka “Baby”… *blush*) doing the missing. Which surprises me. It surprises me because I spent much of my adolescence and young-adulthood focusing on what I thought Mom wasn’t. Yet now, as her physical self is no longer here, the memories that surface are the ones about everything Mom was and did and gave.
Romanticizing the past? I really don’t think so. I know Mom was imperfect, and I was imperfect, and our relationship brought its share of lack and wishing and wanting and longing to my young heart.
And it also had its moments. The moments that I now realize meant enough to me at the time of my youth that they are currently my foremost Mom memories. The memories that as an adult I recognize as significant moments of Mom offering her heart, back when I thought she was keeping it from me.
The mostly cream-and-sugar tiny cup of coffee she served special on Sunday mornings before church — out of the little Mexico adobe teacups (never mind the likely poisonous chemicals seeping from the pottery-making methods. it wasn’t intentional.)
The special Friday night family time ritual of otherwise almost-forbidden treats of hot dogs (Mom’s favorite), potato chips, and *gasp* Dr. Pepper! … which with age became family (and friends) Friday night pizza and ice cream at the Valley Mall … which then became Friday night pizza and ice-cream in my own home(s) after that… which is now…um… Friday night wine time. Ok, so maybe not exactly what Mom — the alcohol-abstinent Mennonite pastor’s wife – envisioned, but the Friday night ritual of connection remains.
The hot breakfast of Cream of Wheat or Coco Wheats (score!!) she served us kids every wintery morning before our shivery walks to the bus stop.
The piece of gum she’d put on the window sill in front of the kitchen sink as our reward for washing dishes.
The way she showed me that a light caramelly color is the way you know when you have the perfect amount of cream your coffee.
The old bread she tossed out in the yard for the birds, even though she wasn’t particularly taken with nature.
The way she taught me that you cook simply by putting ” a little of this and a little of that” into a dish to get the spices just right.
The delight she expressed when a meal included a beautiful array of color, never mind how it might taste.
Mom gave me moments. I see now that she was the one gave me the example of paying attention to the seemingly small delights in life… which are the whole foundation, it turns out, for living a full, grateful, vibrant, powerful, loving life.
I write this today because I have realized in a whole new way since my parents’ deaths that every time you pay attention — really pay attention — you give your children, your grandchildren, your niecephews, your parents, and your anyone around you — a gift. A gift that might not be recognized for 10, 20, even 30 or 40 years, but a still a gift.
You see, it’s in paying attention that you express your Love — to each other, to nature, to yourself, and to your g(G)od(s).
And it’s in paying attention that you make moments. Moments that speak more clearly than words as the years (and lives) pass.
What are your moments today — are you paying attention?