Jackie was a trouper when us kids were growing up. The mother of seven, a wife forever, an old fashioned homemaker. She loved to play a little golf and walk a few miles every day. She read every novel she could get her hands on and then passed her favorites on to us. As we got older and she had a little more time, she became a wonderful quilter. She made a quilt for each of us, even the grand-kids, until the stroke happened, that is. Her quilts are full of beauty and love, a valuable reminder that she hasn’t always been like this.
There was a young girl quality about Mom, as if the child within refused to be discouraged by the body aging. I claimed “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” by Cindi Loper, as her theme song, years ago. She was a good time waiting to happen. Jackie was thin and petite, still is, which allowed her the luxury of wearing just about anything she wanted. She could wear blue jeans and a T-shirt along with the rest of us in family photos and blend right in, looking just like one of the kids. Her kids.
Children she taught to be honest, sit up straight, eat vegetables, and clean the house on Saturday mornings. Her hands were full, from morning till night, yet she was never too busy for small talk. After school was the best. Let’s make a BLT, she’d say, and tell me what’s new. Why don’t you empty the dishwasher and I’ll get dinner going. Do you have plans this weekend?
She laughed at Monty Python. She laughed in church. She laughed at everything she wasn’t supposed to. Mother had a sense of humor that got her in trouble. She passed that on to me. It’s a blessing and a curse.
Now, she’s eighty-three and living with the effects of a horrible stroke that happened thirteen years ago and destroyed her. The twinkle in her eye has been gone a long time, as if the candle blew out. She needs someone to help her to the bathroom and to brush her teeth. The private women who took care to fix herself just so, is at the mercy of others. We never got to take a girl trip together or any of the things allowed when the kids are older and a mothers’ life changes. By the time I had time, the stroke happened and that was the end of that. All I can say is I wish I would have known. I would have made it work, somehow. I would have forced some time out of a turnip, if I had to.
So, we will get together and celebrate her eighty-three years. We’ll help her blow out the candles and make a wish for a do-over. I have learned the preciousness of every day living, of making things happen to keep families together. We balk traditions, yet they are the glue we need to give meaning to our lives. We should have lots of them.
Don’t waste a minute deciding on plans, on the should we, or the could we. Just get on with it and make it happen. You’ll be so glad you did.