Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 91 years old. Sadly she didn't even make it to her 53rd year. I didn't get to find the pleasure of her becoming an old person. I know that may sound strange to most who are caring for an elderly parent, and I do hope I am not stepping on anyone's feelings here. There are so many of you out there suffering through the living loss of a parent. But for the most part you did have 30 more years with them that I never had. I have precious friends and a husband who are dealing with this kind of loss right now, and I offer little comfort because of my lack of experience. It's just a different perspective. I missed out on the frail bones and the failing memory. I didn't get to observe her hair growing whiter over the years. She couldn't be at my side when we lost our first born son at age 23, or when I miscarried. She didn't get to experience the absolute joy of seeing her first grandchild, or watch all 6 of them grow into beautiful adults. With Dad following only 7 years later, the image of older parents just is not part of my make-up.
I sometimes wonder what Mom would have been like as she grew older. Her faith, her everlasting, unconditional love for her husband and children, her exquisite artistic talent. How would they have played out over the years? And her face, the sparkling eyes and alabaster skin free of a single wrinkle. Would those have faded over the years? I really doubt it.
How would she have acted when it came to my trials and tribulations throughout my own marriage? I've said many times that if she had lived, I probably would have been divorced. It would have been too easy to run back into her loving arms at the slightest argument with my new husband. Or as a grandmother, how would she have judged me as I struggled with the kids' terrible 2's that are seeming to last until 32!
I've been able to squeeze so many memories out of the 23 years we had together. I've savored every recall of mine as well as from my siblings. They remember things that I don't and vice versa. I have to make that a good thing! What treasures others must have with having parents on earth for 60, 70 or 80 years!!
Now that I am embarking on a new venture as a grandparent, what lessons will I be able to fall back on? I thought she was the perfect mother. She was gone before I realized she even had imperfections. Through my own experiences as a mom, I know now she could not have been perfect. But the love my children show me reflects my love of her, so maybe in my short 23 years with her, something did rub off on me.
Parents can sometimes be the best teachers --- not the ones who lecture or show you how everything is done right, but the ones who stand back and let you discover on your own; learning to accept and acknowledge your own successes and failures equally. As a parent, Mom didn't have that choice...to stand back, but for me it's the biggest lesson right now. As I watch my own children who are learning to become adults and parents themselves, I HAVE TO stand back and let them struggle through it. I must have the faith in them that they will, too, get through this life with as much love and appreciation for their family and those around the as possible.
Thanks, Mom, for all you have taught me. I'll try to live up to all your lessons.
And Happy Birthday, Mavis Gertrude Pendley Rutledge!