Category Archives: Mothers and Daughters

An American Family

I just read today’s headline about Palin’s 17-year-old daughter being 5 months pregnant. I feel for the daughter; it must be awful to be in this kind of spotlight. However, I do wonder how concerned Palin is with protecting her family. She had to have know that in accepting the nomination, a big spotlight was going to be shone on her family. There was no way that her daughter’s pregnancy was going to remain private. Already, the conservative right is blaming the media, the Obama campaign, and anyone who dares express an opinion for exposing this young woman to such public scrutiny. Funny, but no one is blaming Big Mama Palin who put her political ambitions before the needs of her daughter.

I can’t help but see a certain irony in today’s headlines about Palin’s pregnant daughter. Her party has appropriated the term “family values” as being exclusively theirs. Her party affirms that it is pro-life, but rarely supports any increases in public benefits, even though most of the recipients of those benefits are single mothers and the benefits help them feed, clothe, house, and provide access to medical care for their children. I have problems with policy that is more concerned with the unborn than it is with the children already among us.

I read that Palin’s daughter will be marrying the father of her child. I can only hope that this is what she really desires. After all, her mother is going after her heart’s desire. She accepted the vice presidential nomination, thrusting not only herself but her entire family into the national and international spotlight. From my vague recollections of what it was like to be 17, I wonder if her daughter really wanted to have her moment in the spotlight. I wonder if Palin’s devotion to family values made her pause for a moment and think about her daughter’s feelings about having her life become open to inspection and criticism. I wonder if it ever crossed her mind, when John McCain asked, to say no.

Roses

roseI’ve had a good Sunday. I talked to my mother this morning and caught up with her week.

My mother grows beautiful roses in her own yard and she is a volunteer with the Wilson Rose Garden Society. She has her own section of the rose garden to tend to and she takes her duties quite seriously. She had been to the city’s rose garden early this morning to dead-head her section of the rose garden in preparation for the upcoming rose garden show. To encourage constant blooming, you have to cut off the spent roses. The act of removing the spent blooms is called dead-heading.

My mother has always been the gardener in our family; my father is not allowed to participate in the gardening activities, although he doesn’t know this. Every now and then, seemingly unaware that my mother has expressly forbidden him to “mess” with her gardens (flower and vegetable), my dad will attempt to plant something new, move an existing plant to another spot, water something, or sin of all sins, fertilize something.

I can always tell when he has engaged in these activities because when I visit my parents. my mother meets me at the door leading into the garage. After we hug, it begins.

“Step over here for a minute before we go inside and take a look at this flower bed.”

I dutifully follow her to the flower bed on the right corner of the front lawn, under the oak tree. (By the way, generally my dad isn’t home. He likes to take long walks or ride his bike on a daily basis and doesn’t usually come back to the house until after 5:00 pm and even later on summer days.)

“What does that look like to you?”

Both of my parents are fond of trick questions. The trick is to get you to say something that one of them can use to confirm that the other is wrong, has said something wrong, or has done something wrong.

I think carefully, and then venture the safest response possible, “I don’t know.”

It is always better to appear totally stupid and incapable of thought than to give either one of them ammunition to use in their ongoing game of, “I’m right and you’re wrong!”

“It’s a weed. I told your daddy that it was a weed but he thinks it’s a flower and that it’s going to bloom. Anybody could see that it’s a weed. That man doesn’t know a thing about growing anything!”

My mother grew up on a farm and she considers herself an expert on growing all things because of this. My dad grew up in a small town and therefore, according to my mother, knows nothing about growing anything.

“Walk around the house with me and let me show you what he’s done to my verbena. He claims that he didn’t put any fertilizer on it but I know that he did and it’s scorched that plant and I don’t know if I can nurse it back to health.”

“Mama, can we check out the verbena later, I’ve been on the road driving and I have to pee.”

My mother is actually a very good gardener, but she exaggerates my father’s alleged ineptitude. However, he is content to mostly stay out of her gardening affairs and only slips up on occasion. My sister and her husband, Bob, are both avid gardeners and while I’m not in their league, I have a pleasant flower bed out front and roses in the back.

In addition to talking by phone with my mother, I also visited my sister for a few hours this afternoon. Her allergies are giving her a hard time, so I went over to keep her company. We discussed a great book that she had loaned me to read, which I finished last night, called The Pact, by Jodi Picoult. I highly recommend it; I couldn’t put it down. We also watched some really tacky Lifetime movie which we both enjoyed a great deal. Since returning home, I’ve tried to catch up on reading other journals today. The state legislature is back in session and I have been consumed with work for the past few weeks and gotten behind in my journal reading.

As I checked out journals today, I was struck by the consistent theme in several journals of dealing with the loss of a loved one–fathers, mothers, and grandparents. The book that I just read was also about death and loss.

I realize how fortunate I am to still have both of my parents, for all of their continual nonsense and I know that there will come a time when I long for the opportunity to be put in the middle of one of their “choosing sides” debates. All of my grandparents have long passed and I took a few moments to look at the photographs that I have of them in my library. I was particularly close to my paternal grandmother, Viola, and a photograph of her sits on my desk in my home office.

She became seriously ill right after I began law school in 1994. We expected her to die quickly, especially after the doctors had to amputate her legs due to complications from circulatory problems. She was a tall woman, 5′ 10″, and the sight of her small frame after they took her legs broke my heart. Fortunately, she was in the last stages of Alzheimer’s and I don’t believe that she was ever aware of the double amputation. She held on for nearly three years, until I graduated from law school and took the bar exam. She died before I received my bar results but I have no doubt that she heard the joyful shouting that I did at the mailbox on the day that I received the notice that I had passed the bar. I think it was her last gift to me, letting me finish the journey that I started before I had to fully deal with her loss.

I used to visit her grave on occasion when I went to visit my parents in my hometown. I finally stopped going to the cemetery because one day I realized that she was not there, underneath the mounded earth. She was with me, always with me. I realized that I carried her in my heart and all the graveyard held was dust. Sometimes, when I close my eyes and listen carefully, I can almost hear her call my name.

My preference is to embed videos; however, the embed link on YouTube has been diisabled on this video by request of the poster. I found the same video on AOL, but WordPress won’t accept a video link from AOL. So, to hear a really great song, and watch the video, click here. The video is by Brooks and Dunn. The song is called Believe. I find the song moving on a spiritual level and I also think that Ronnie Dunn is so hot when he sings, and he moves me too. What? I’m a middle-aged woman; I need my fantasy life!

Mama, Technology, and Me

mama in motion

Both of my parents are in their 70s and they still haven’t quite adjusted to the world of technology that we now inhabit. I thought of this yesterday while I was listening to a voice mail message from my mother.

“Hello,” pause, “you must not be home. You don’t have to call me back. This is your mother. I love you,” another pause, “bye-bye.”

I was thrilled that she left a message, as often she doesn’t. She is always somewhat surprised when I get home and call her back after her hang-ups.

Mama: “Hello sweetheart, I was thinking about you earlier today.”

Me: “Yeah, I noticed that you had called; I’ve been thinking about you too!”

Pause, “But I didn’t leave a message. I know that work keeps you so busy and I didn’t want you to worry about calling me back.”

I’ve tried to explain about caller ID but I don’t think that it fits the parameters of her world. I think that’s why she always feels its necessary to identify herself when she does leave a message, just in case I don’t recognize her voice after nearly 53 years.

It’s taken a bit of time, but I’ve finally learned that I cannot force my mother to embrace technology. My sister says that I’m just hardheaded; she gave up long before I did. The final clue for me was what I refer to as The Computer Affair.

For years my mother gazed longingly at the computer set-ups that my siblings and I have in our homes. She began sharing words of wisdom that her friend Felice would print out for their mall walking group, and wistfully sighing that she needed to get a computer. [Felice generally dispenses alarmist medical advice that she has found on the Internet, like don’t drink cold water because it will chill the chambers of your heart and result in instant death. I happen to like ice-water, so for a time, whenever I loaded my glass with ice cubes before filling it with water, I received the benefit of Felice’s computer generated wisdom. Eventually Mama became resigned to my refusal to change my ice loving ways, and now only watches me surreptiously when I drink a glass of ice water, prepared to leap into action should my heart chambers freeze and I suddenly collapse.]

Her friend, Mary, another member of the mall walking group, is also an avid computer user. She prints out jokes that generally don’t look favorably upon the intelligence of men and generate much laughter among the all-female group. My personal favorite involves a woman whose wealthy husband extracts a death bed promise that she will bury all of his money with him. At the funeral, one of the widow’s friends inquires if she kept her promise and honored his request. The widow replies that indeed she has. The friend gasps in wonder at the widow’s presumed folly until the widow announces with a beatific smile, “I wrote him a check.”

Each year, my mother’s fixation on having a computer grew. I offered to take her shopping to purchase a computer and she professed to be interested in doing so, but the timimg was never quite right. Less you think that the issue was the cost of a computer, my parents are quite comfortable financially and money had nothing to do with it.

I suggested to my sister that maybe we should consider purchasing Mama a computer as a gift and my sister replied, “She doesn’t want a computer.” My brother said that if I thought that it was a good idea, that he would contribute to the computer gift fund.

My sister is the middle child, and she is the practical one. Her assertion that our mother didn’t really want a computer nagged at me and I put the gift idea on the back burner; however, Mama kept sighing about wanting a computer.

Finally, I became frustrated with the lack of memory on my home computer. I had recently become addicted to an online game called WORD WHOMP and every time I played, I had to shut down all other programs. So, I purchased a new computer with two gigabytes of memory. (What? I like word games!) I got a better deal if I also purchased a printer, and I needed a new power bar, and a computer Scarbble game, any way, when I was done, I decided to give my mother my old computer, printer, and power strip.

She was thrilled and watched giddily as I set it up for her. For her first lesson, I attempted to teach her how to turn on the monitor, the computer, and the printer. It didn’t go very well, so I labeled all of the on/off buttons. Then I introduced her to the mouse. They did not become good friends. I instructed her to practice moving around the screen with the mouse and suggested that she play Solitaire to facilitate getting accustomed to using the mouse.

“I don’t know how to play Solitaire. Do they have Pinochle on here?”

I went home a few weeks later and asked Mama how her use of the computer was coming along. She explained that she thought that she might have broken it.

“Did you drop it, throw it, or spill liquid on it?”

“No, but the screen looks all funny.”

Reassured that it wasn’t broken, I sat down in front of the computer and I agreed that the screen looked all funny. Forty-five minutes later, after I had restored all the default settings, I summoned my mother for her second, and final computer lesson. I had given up on the mouse and altered the settings so that she could move about the screen using the arrow keys, but the thrill was gone and she was no longer interested.

She patted my cheek, and brightly volunteered, “What I need is to take a computer class. I’m going to sign up for one at the Tech.”

It’s been nearly four years and so far she hasn’t signed up for that class. (If you are a computer instructor at the Wilson County Technical College, you can relax; she’s never coming.) However, she is able to happily tell her friends that she has a computer. She dusts it off weekly.

P.S. Isn’t she just the cutest little thing! My mother is all of 5’1″ and has more energy than people half her age. The photo is one I took of her last July 4th while she was preparing dinner.