I looked through my scribblings to find this essay that I wrote about my mother while I was attending college long, long ago. I have edited it to make it current. Although it's not a western story, I want to share it with those of you who read my work.
I was my mother’s first son, the second of six children. From the beginning of my memory, I watched her; and what I saw soaked into my soul. She was forgiving when she fell and broke her ankle while chasing a three-year-old me because I didn’t want to take a nap. She was patient when I rang the fire alarm in kindergarten but firm when she took me to the principal’s office the next morning to apologize for lying to him about my misconduct. During the evening between these two events, she told me the story of the boy who had cried “Wolf!” and explained to me why ringing the fire alarm was not funny, but was dangerous. Maybe she realized that I hadn’t known the purpose of the small, black button on the wall.
She was compassionate when she discovered that I had rubbed poison ivy on my forearms to prove to a fellow third grader that I was as immune to it as he was. She was sympathetic when, confused about a home remedy, she poured ammonia over the resulting rash and left me scarred. That same year she was just (although I didn’t think so at the time) when she followed my apology to an angry motorist—I only hit his hub cap—with the confiscation of my slingshot.
The summer after my fourth-grade year, our family moved to a 156-acre farm, where I became my father’s right-hand man. My mother demonstrated her unselfishness repeatedly by taking my place as Dad’s helper when he worked late in the barn on a school night. As I was growing up, she worked part-time jobs when she could find them. She spent most, if not all of her wages on other people, usually us kids. While I was in high school, she helped me deliver newspapers even though she had to get up at two o’clock Sunday mornings and work for over four hours before we went to church.
She was always compassionate. I came home after school one day during my senior year to find her crying. She had had to call the veterinarian to put down my sister’s dying pony. When a lonely old hermit, our neighbor, passed away, my mother was the only friend who went to his funeral. In the midst of endless housework, laundry, canning, and part-time jobs, my mother was never too busy to listen to a story, laugh at a joke, doctor a wound, or help a friend.
My mother was humble. No task was too menial for her. I have many memories of the times she bragged about us, but I have no recollection of her boasting on her own behalf. She was as real a Christian as any person I have ever known.
She was positive. Quick as she was to chasten or scold when the need arose, my mother was quicker to praise when praise was due. Her marriage was not the happiest, and we children were not models for good behavior; but more often than she sighed, my mother sang. Her sweet alto voice was among the most beautiful I have ever heard. When people hurt her, she didn’t retaliate; she prayed for the abusive and thoughtless ones.
She was tenacious when she encountered difficulties. While reason and common sense tried to persuade her to quit, she exercised love and commitment; and she persevered.
I am not and never will be a millionaire. I was, however, happily married to a beautiful lady from May 28, 1974, until June 18, 2005, when God took her Home. In spite of the severe rheumatoid arthritis and devastating migraine headaches that God allowed to enter her life, we had a beautiful relationship. I have two adult children, who are among my closest and most-trusted friends. I was a high school English teacher in the same Christian high school from 1978 to 2006. For the past thirty years, I have been a freelance writer. I have published nearly thirty short stories, a six-book middle grade (ages 8-12) fiction series, and a book of short stories for adults. My writing got off to a slow start because of time restrictions. In order to make ends meet, I was working two part-time jobs during the school year. When my mother started getting a social-security check, she asked me to quit one of my part-time jobs and began to send me $150.00 each month. Because of my success and her increased expenses, she eventually had to cut her support in half. It still enabled me to write. I wanted to repay her, but the only currency she would accept was printed copies of my stories.
After my wife’s funeral, Mom wanted me to come to live with her and Dad so that I wouldn’t be alone. Because I intended to teach one more year, I declined.
When my father passed away in 2007, he left Mom pretty well off. Her philosophy concerning money became, “Do your giving while you’re living so you’re knowing where it’s going.” She knew I was facing some medical expenses from my late wife’s treatments that my teacher’s salary couldn’t cover. Although I tried to avoid telling her how much I owed, she kept asking until I gave her the lowest amount I thought she would believe. She sent me a check for $15,000.
Later that same year, I surprised Mom on one of my visits by introducing her to another beautiful lady, who became my wife in September of 2007. Once again God has blessed me with a very happy marriage to an incredible lady.
Susie and I spent the winter of 2012-13 with Mom. I don’t recall ever seeing her so happy. We played Scrabble nearly every day and watched numerous episodes of Monk, Matlock, and The Waltons. We both worked part-time jobs and paid for groceries. We cleaned the house and cooked her meals. We spoiled her and had a delightful time doing it. Mom was grateful for everything that people did for her. She invited us to stay with her every winter.
On March 21, 2017, she went to Heaven. Although we know she is much better off now, many of us miss her. She impacted the lives of all who knew her; she still does. She still impacts me. Our oldest son Ben reminded us in Mom’s eulogy that because she is gone, the world has a little less love, a little less kindness, a little less generosity, and a little less compassion. He challenged us to compensate for the loss by living our lives a little more like Mom lived hers. For the rest of our lives, Susie and I intend to accept that challenge every day.