Mom – A Good Communicator
An Early Mother’s Day Tribute
I am the third of four siblings and am often told I look like my mother. Mom and I shared a close relationship. In photographs we always stood next to each other.
The only difference is that I had a longing to know the world and she was content to stay at home.
Mom Writes Letters When I Go Away to College
I chose to attend a Christian college five hours away in West Virginia. Mom wrote me once a week. Her letter always included news of the weather, family and a crisp $5.00 bill, a lot back then. It was the days before cell phone but I had a pay phone outside my suite and I called when I could.
Then I traveled further away to Oklahoma,to study at another Christian college. Mom continued to write and still sent that $5.00 bill. I made a plan my senior year and saved all the money she sent. On Thanksgiving morning, 1978, I walked downstairs in our Pennsylvania home. “Happy Thanksgiving!” I said, ‘Surprise! Compliments of Mom’s five dollar bills!” Mom was so happy to see me and have her family together again.
But at the end of the year, she missed my graduation. It was too far to travel and my father was starting his busy season. She said if she had to do it over again, she would never let me go so far away.
Mom Copes With Me Leaving to South America
But I went away even further. An opportunity opened up for me to teach in South America. That was a tough one for Mom. The drug war was going on and the Colombian mafia was threatening to kills two Americans for every Colombian extradited. But she swallowed her fears and let me go.
Mom’s letters continued to arrive, with her neat, familiar handwriting and news of family, friends and the weather.
Mom Gets Me to Talk about Vision Loss
In between overseas teaching jobs, just before leaving for Indonesia, I went to the eye doctors to get stronger glasses. It turned into a two-day set of exams with a retinal specialist. My mother drove me in each day and stayed in the waiting room. After my last session, I came out. She asked, “What did the doctor say?”
I muttered, “Nothing.”
She wouldn’t let up so finally on the way home, I blurted out, “He said I’m going blind, are ya’ satisfied?”
She was silent for a few minutes and then said softly, “If I could, I would give you my sight. I’ve lived most of my life.” That broke a dam inside me. At 59, she had hardly lived “most of her life.” It got both the tears and our communication flowing again.
Mom Accepts My Decision to Move Halfway Around the World
When I made the decision to move forward with my job in Indonesia a few weeks later, Mom swallowed her fears once more. What would her daughter do if she lost her vision overseas? But that was my decision to make. She embraced me a little tighter, her rounding shoulders shaking and gave me her blessing. “I have your address, and will write to let you know the news,” she promised with a serious expression on her face.
Mom Is Happy to Have me Closer in Texas
A year later, I moved back to the States but chose to live in Texas and work with the government. My mom still missed me a lot but made the best of it and wrote and called. She said at least I visited home more often. She always kept me, the stray button, sewn to our family garment.
The job in Texas sent me overseas to set up language programs. I continued to teach in exotic lands: Japan. Egypt. Taiwan.
It was Egypt she hated most because I met a man, of a different faith even.
Mom Anguishes Over Me Marrying a Foreign Officer Overseas
It was difficult for her to bear when I married my Egyptian Captain – in Egypt, no less. It was against military regulations for him to marry a foreigner and my mother knew this. When I called Mom to tell her we would secretly marry, she cried, “But what will you do? Where will you live? What if you get arrested? Will I ever see you again?” The anguish in her voice was unbearable.
Later she said she couldn’t drive for a week because of her tears. Mom didn’t trust “those foreign countries,” and she had never met my husband. The prison aspect of it terrified her. It was also the days of the book “Not Without My Daughter,” a woman who married an Iranian man who kept her captive in the country. Who could blame my mom?
Because of the danger in our foreign marriage, I found work in the United Arab Emirates instead of living in Egypt while my husband tried to process paperwork to leave the military honorably. When the military kept canceling his attempts to retire, and he finally admitted to our marriage, he was court marshaled and banished to an outpost in the desert. But at least he avoided arrest. Six months later, he was dishonorably discharged and he joined me in the Emirates.
One day I found out I was pregnant with twins. And guess what? They were due on Mom’s birthday – August 11! We were both thrilled. It was a God-thing.
Mom Knows Something is Wrong in my Twin Pregnancy
But I didn’t do well. Early on in the pregnancy, I swelled up like a football player and felt sluggish. The doctor said swelling like a balloon was common with twins. But my mother’s intuition kicked in and she called me. I started to cry over a broken lamp. She told herself, “Something is terribly wrong with Amy.”
She was right. At twenty weeks, I learned I had lost one twin. Two days later, I was hospitalized with severe pre-eclampsia (toxemia). They said I could lose the other twin. What was even worse, I could die, myself.
Mom Flies Overseas to See Me.
She called me every day in the hospital to see how I was for a month. The next week, when my second twin died, I said, “Mom, can you come?”
This woman who was afraid of “those foreign countries,” arranged with my sister and husband to travel to me in the Middle East. She communicated her love by making the long journey to be by my bedside. I was thrilled to have my mama with me again.
The day she arrived, we both napped in my hospital room while my sister and her husband saw some local sights.
I woke up in the afternoon and saw two doves outside my hospital window. I said, “Mom, Look at those birds! Two white doves. That’s from God. He sent those doves to tell me my babies are with Him.”
And just like that, we shared a moment. Our faith kicked in. We didn’t need any more words. Mom small smile communicated her joy at being by my side, knowing my babies were safe, knowing I would get better.
Mom Helps Me Bear The Collapse of My Marriage
I was so glad she was there with me to witness it and to help me bear the loss. When my marriage broke up a few years and a miscarriage later, my mother helped me bear that too. I squared my shoulders to return to the Emirates and my teaching.
Mom Gets Her Wish – I Return Home
Finally, when my father passed away, I came home to live for good.
She needed me.
It took the loss of my father to realize how much I was missing at home.
I remember a special moment Mom and I shared together.
We had drunk some tea in the middle of the day, a special treat for her. Afterwards, when she did up the dishes. I said, “Mom, I’m so glad I’m home.”
She said, “Me, too. I waited a long time.”
Mom Enjoys The Companionship of Her Daughter
Mom and I had 11 years of simplicity, of experiencing Pennsylvania weather, and living family news firsthand. I was finally a companion to Mom.
It was my turn to give back and my turn to mother, my mother.
We sat on the porch to get the half hour of sun my sister said we needed. We waited for the mail together. All the mundane things that meant so much.
People used to ask me if I missed my travels and I never did.
For once, I was content to be in one place. We watched Hallmark movies and funny sitcoms together, and enjoyed our Lake Street Mile Long Yard sale every August, just before her birthday. Though she said, “It’s too much stress!” she always enjoyed meeting our friends and neighbors who came to shop. She especially loved it when my Aunt Carolyn visited for those two days. It was so much fun! It was my turn to squirrel away $5.00 bills to celebrate birthday dinners throughout the year.
Over the years, we chatted about family, my travels–even though she didn’t much care for them–and how hard it was to write and sell books. We went to church together, and later, had church at home, ate ice cream and fought over my cooking. She shook her cane at me and said I’d kill her yet with my meatloaf.
Mom and I Mourn My Sister
During my sister’s three-year battle with Leukemia, Mom and I ministered to her. My sister made sure we all made memories. There was one unforgettable picnic at our Boro Park with my sister’s grandchildren, my niece, my sister, my mother and me. The sun shone on the water and my sister sat quietly at the water’s edge next to my mom and watched the girls skip rocks. We ate homemade blueberry oatmeal in canning glasses and basked in the sun. I remember that I napped, cocooned in the sunshine of my family.
When my sister passed away, Mom and I bore it together. We talked more about the things that mattered and the faith we had in seeing my sister again one day.
Mom Suffers a Bad Stroke
Recently it was my turn to sit by my mom at her hospital bed. There was no more napping. After her sudden massive and irreversible stroke, Mom seemed to be in a deep sleep. I sat for hours holding her hand. I asked her if she could hear me and told her to give my hand a squeeze, just like they say in the movies.
Mom gave my hand a very slight squeeze.
To me, it was a God-thing.
But my mom always communicated her love.
Mom Receives Heavenly Music on Earth
My mother was a homebody. She did take a few trip with my father and brother and paternal grandmother but was never happier than when she arrived home once again. In her golden years, she became a shut-in, for the most part.
I worried about her making the journey to her forever home alone.
Bowing my head, I begged God to make that journey as peaceful as possible. “You know she’s not a traveler like me, God,” I said.
He sent a harp, not a figurative one. But a real live harpist through the Hospice. She was a new volunteer and we were her first family.
It was a God-thing.
Mom Breathes Her Last
I had never been around anyone who passed away. I didn’t know what it would be like. I held my mother’s hand, read scripture and stroked her arm, wishing like anything I had more time with her. Finally, I said it was all right to go and join my father, my sister and my babies. They were waiting for her. I told her to be at peace.
The harp music relaxed my mother and she breathed her last breath softly.
She simply stopped breathing. That was my mom’s last communication to us. She was always clear and purposeful. She was, indeed, at peace.
I’m here now, missing you terribly, can hardly contemplate life without you.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Let me know how the weather is up there and how the family is doing.