Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do. – Dr. Benjamin Spock
July 28, 2020 was the thirtieth anniversary of my mother’s death. To honor her, I spent a couple days in contemplation of her life. I prayed and meditated at the beach and thought of the enormous time that has passed since she died. Afterwards, I offered a small bouquet to the outgoing tide for Mom and Pop. Watching the various petals and blossoms swirling round and round, I let my thoughts drift as they would towards my parents. Sifting through memories can be tricky. Sometimes we misremember or alter events to fit the narratives with which we construct our inner reality. My Mom’s death left a chasm in the family. Some tried to fill the emptiness by fabricating an unreality, others tried to claim center stage, while I did my best to honor her memory by dedicating myself to raising my own children alone. Before my son was born, I was talking to my mom about becoming a parent. I was worried I wouldn’t know what to do. She told me the above quote from Dr. Spock, and, as she often was, she was so right.
It is difficult to sum up my mother’s life, but love energized her heart and family was her happiness. Mom’s father died when she was twelve. She had to go to work in a laundry to help support her family. One of her motherhood goals was to become a lifetime member of the national PTA. With five kids, it was never easy for her to attend PTA functions, but she did. I was happy to walk with her to meetings because the ladies would have cookies, coffee and fruit punch afterwards. As a good student, and my mother’s son, I got extra cookies 🙂 Little things like that meant the world to my mother, and to me. While some people greedily grabbed “valuable” things, I waited and later found this handmade pin my mom made and proudly wore to all her PTA functions. For years, I carried this little note from her in my wallet. Seeing her signature, and knowing I was the one who took her to the store so many time, is a magic talisman against the harshness of life. These are the treasures of my mom – a truly blessed woman.
With my father’s passing, the family has, in essence, been broken in two. Having had numerous bad experiences asking for any family mementos in the past, years ago, I asked for a tool he created. Pop was a master factory mechanic. He was the go-to guy when it came to shipping out big earth movers. The company had a problem with twenty units, and my Dad saved them $71,000 and got a $375 bonus. His written explanation of his accomplishment reads like an arcane magic spell: “…Check the side clearance play on the bull gear in cross-shaft housing on 150 road grader…”. He would often regale our family with tales of the factory, WWII, motorcycle racing, perhaps that is one reason why I am a storyteller. There were many things I shared with my Dad growing up, and one was a love of the St. Louis Cardinals (leave comments about your own favorite teams). One of my treasured mementos of my Dad are the ticket stubs to over a dozen games we went to together in 1976 and 1977. We had a great time each time. I would snack on pretzels and peanuts, and he would wander around the stadium and drink big cups of Budweiser. Afterwards, I would drive home. We saw so many great games, and he got to brag to his buddies about seeing the games. Those memories are priceless – as was he.
My Mom and Dad’s home is filled with items of their past, and our times growing up. I won’t get into the family dynamic at play right now. I have my own family. Learning to be a stalwart man from my father and loving soul from my mother, I would not trade one second of my life as a single father for all the so-called “treasures”. Living overseas in China for a dozen years, I accumulated many things. Before I left, I gave each of my kids a box of things from their childhoods, and my son still lovingly cares for a box of my things. The pain of parting was horrid, but I knew the magnificent people they were, just as my parents understood the caring man I became. Sacrifice is what I learned from both my parents. How to place your wants aside in order to provide for your children’s needs. Love, honor, truthfulness, dedication, all these and a million more are needed to build a family. Returning home, I pared down my possessions, and now I have a suitcase filled with sweet treasures of my life with my family. But all those are merely reflections of the true joyous riches.
After praying for the reunification of my mother and father’s spirits, I found a feather and made a little boat from a sand dollar. As I watched the tiny temporary sailboat being tossed and tumbled in the surf, I laughed at the happy journey we all get to enjoy. We all have our difficult and sweet times. Finding our balance is a key to a good life. Life on this wonderful planet, is not the end or the beginning. Our spirits have always been in motion as we all are part of the divine universe. Knowing my parents’ spirits live on in me and my children is a treasure beyond measure. We all are the sacred children of Eternity.