...And I'll forgive thy great big one on me," so wrote Robert Frost in In the Clearing.
I first read that quote many years ago in my American Literature college textbook, and it always stuck with me. Google tells me some people have different interpretations, but mine was always: You are born, then you die; you come to love people, then death takes them away. Joke. Haha.
My mother passed away at my sister's home on July 17 after a long struggle with a cancer of unknown origin. She was 72 years old. She left behind 6 children, 16 great grandchildren (preceded in death by 1), and 10 great great grandchildren.
When she was first diagnosed with cancer over 3 years ago, she'd promised me that when the time came to say good-bye, she would let me know, and she did. I stayed with her for a month this past April, and when it was time for me to come back home, saying good-bye to her when she was in the hospice, knowing it would be the last time I would ever see her, was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. We both cried, but she did what she always did, what mothers always do- comforted me. As a person of deep Christian faith, she assured me we'd see each other again, and also that I'd be okay because I have a family who love each other, and would always be there for each other.
My mom was born in 1939 in Ft. Myers, Florida and grew up in Clewiston, a small town south of Lake Okeechobee. You know that big lake you see on a map of Florida, west of West Palm Beach? That's the one. Clewiston is nicknamed America's Sweetest Town for the sugarcane fields and sugar production. Her father worked in one of the sugar mills.
Like most kids, I knew the story of how my parents met, having heard it often over the years. My daughter was also visiting for a week during my last month-long stay with my mom. I wanted her to hear the story, so I asked my my mom again how they met. Here's my best paraphrasing as she told it:
Aunt Em and Uncle Jr. were newly married and lived in the house across from us (in Clewiston), and your daddy lived with them. I initially thought your daddy was Aunt Em's husband, but found out she was his twin. I thought he was cute and went over to their house all the time to flirt with him.
Eventually, they moved back home, and I wanted to go with them. I asked my mama if I could marry him and she said no. I cried and begged for weeks on end, and my mama finally relented.
When your daddy and I had our first fight, I drove back home to my mama's but she turned me away saying I was a married woman now, and I was no longer her responsibility.
That last part is always included in how they met, for some reason, and makes me giggle. Anyhow, nothing really remarkable about that story, just one of the little things I wanted passed on to my daughter. Mom married when she was 15 and had six children by the time she was 26. That's my mom at 15 in the picture above, my favorite of her, by the way.
My two youngest siblings are also twins. I remember going to the hospital with dad to pick my mom up after they were born, and when they brought out, not one, but two babies to the car, I was shocked. The idea of twins was a foreign concept to my unsophisticated 7 year-old mind. When mom settled in the front passenger seat, I asked her, with grave concern, "Are you allowed to take two babies?"
was am my mother's daughter in many ways- we both loved to read, sew and do different kinds of crafts, and crossword puzzles, for example. I'm the only one of my siblings who had all that in common with her. Mom didn't leave a will, leaving the division of property up to us, but she did specify that all her craft things go to me.
My mom and I also had a thing we started maybe in the late '70's. When someone in the family did something stupid or ridiculous, say my brother, for example, I would say, "He's your son," as if I didn't want to be associated with him. Then she'd say, "No, no, he's your brother." It was all done in a joking way, of course.
I imagine mom is up there now telling everyone, "That's my daughter."