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Monday, July 13, 2015

A Mother's Influence

I'm not much into confessions, at least I don't think I am, but I'll come clean about something. Even though I'd happily signed up to write a monthly blog for Fire Star and figured I'd have no trouble coming up with something to chat about, when I sat down in front of the computer yesterday, I had nothing, nothing I say.
Writer's block?
Oh who knows? I rather suspect it was a case of life getting in the way of creativity. Writing is hard work. All that business of creating a world peopled with living, breathing characters out of thin air. And that has to be done while the washing machine stops working and teenagers stay out past their curfew and give us grey hair.
These days I'm in a position familiar to millions of people. I'm parenting my parent. How easy it is to write that—parenting my parent. But as anyone who has been there knows, there's nothing easy about advocating for our aging parents and accepting that we have no choice but to slowly let go.
Just today I took my mother to her doctor for a regular checkup only there's nothing regular about it because she's getting weaker and more confused by the day. After listening to her heart and commenting that her heart murmur is becoming more pronounced, he looked me in the eye and said, "Just keep her comfortable." She's 96 and doesn't want to live to be 100. Thank goodness for a doctor who believes in, "Just keep her comfortable."
This is the loving single parent who raised my sister and me on her own, my biggest fan, the woman who encouraged my writing from the beginning. She doesn't understand the publishing world but we went to a New York city writers' conference together and she sat through workshops and told me I was as good a writer as Nora Roberts. She talked me into going into St. Patrick's Cathedral which was an awe-inspiring experience and we got kicked out of the Ritz Hotel for doing the tourist gawk. Nothing will ever take those memories from me.

Just today when I again told her about the Women Writing the West conference I'm going to in Oct., she asked what I expected to learn from it. I explained that I'll be running a workshop about the pros and cons of self-publishing, and she gave me that, "What language are you speaking?" look. Yes Mom, after all these years of writing, I've developed enough expertise about some subjects to run a workshop. I'd love to be able to take her to central Oregon with me, but the days of hanging out together at a conference are behind us, and I can't impress her with how much I know. She no longer grasps my world.
But we had those days, darn it, and I'll always have the memories.
One of my favorite pictures of her is one my sister had enlarged and I framed that show her, her mother, her sister, and a sister-in-law kicking up their heels like can-can dancers.
That's the mother I'm going to remember—the can-can dancer with the big smile, the mother who has read my historicals more times than either of us can count, the teacher who introduced me to the love of reading and from there to writing.
My biggest and best fan.    

Mother, you more than anyone else made me who I am.


  1. My Mother, Zelda Brown Wiesbrock, was that kind of mother. Someone who encouraged me from the get go in anything I wanted to do; even a marriage she knew was going to be a bumpy road. She was my rock through all the hard times; my ray of light at the end of the tunnel, and a bright shining beacon for everyone who knew here.

    I lost her in the most insane way. She was on a flight coming back from a trip to Hawaii and the bags she had left on the bed at her house were already packed for the trip she would be taking to Tucson. Mom was making up for lost time, and doing all the traveling she hadn't been able to do while she was caring for my Dad.

    But it was the postcards and notes she had sent me while on vacation in Hawaii that remain with me. The drawings of the storm clouds that blocked her much anticipated view of the Pacific, along with the rainbow she saw from the plane when they were about to break through the rain clouds to land.

    I thought how much that was like her: give the woman a bag of of lemons, and she would not only make you a gallon of lemonade, but a lemon cream pie and two dozen lemon drop cookies. She always saw the bright side of things; could find humor where other found only despair, and filled me with a sense of hope that made defeat impossible. All you had to do was persevere.

    I've always been grateful that Mom passed the way she wanted to go: in full grasp of the things around her, her body and mind still functioning with her in control. Did I feel robbed? Yes. Do I miss her every day? Damned straight. But I know she is still with me, and always will be. I treasure her memory.

  2. What a lovely tribute! My mother never got to know I wanted to write, but I feel sure she's smiling down on me and maybe occasionally puts an idea in my head.

  3. Vella, I enjoyed your comments. I was busy having and raising children when my mother passed. She knew I was an avid reader and loved to write short stories, but she hasn't been here to be a fan (or a loving critic.). Wonder tribute!

    Robyn Echols w/a Zina Abbott

  4. Vella, what a beautiful post. I'm so glad you had those good memories with your mom! Being the baby of the family (by a LOT) my mom was really tired when I was born. She was 35 and had a 10-year-old and 12-year-old. After I had my kids I realized how hard that must have been for her. She was always so encouraging, like your mom. I only wished she could have had her mental faculties when I finally got my first publishing contract. She would have been so happy. I miss sharing that with her.

    I miss my mom so much. I know what you're going through right now is not easy, at all. And you've already started coming to grips with the inevitable--she has a good doctor, and you are a very strong person.

    Much love to you!

  5. This post is such a wonderful tribute to your mother. It must have been difficult for her raising her children on her own. I can see how much she loves and believes in you and that's a great thing to hang on to.
    I wish you all the very best, Vella.