The Mother’s Day Gift That Keeps On Giving

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

Published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of May 8, 2017

“Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.”  — Sophocles

File May 09, 10 49 34 AMAs a mother, it is hard to let go of my children and let them lead their lives their way. I want to protect them from making the same mistakes I or others have made in the past. I pray for them every day and they are never far from my thoughts. They are always in my heart. Being a mother was the most important career I can have. 

I love to watch my grandchildren grow and see the way they mimic some of their parents’ gestures when their parents were young or how they grow to resemble another family member. I love to see them develop into their own personalities.

I think most mothers feel the same way. I have noticed when talking with other mothers on my writer’s journey there are many lonely mothers out in the world. They are not lonely because their children don’t love them; they are lonely because life for their children has become so busy a phone call or a short visit may only happen occasionally, or on Mother’s Day. But life is busy, perhaps busier than my generation when we were raising our children. Plus, there is also the distance many families now face with children living all over the United States and abroad.

Mother’s Day is next Sunday. The stores are full of flowers, and restaurants are filling the advertising spaces with ideas of gifts for that special mother. While gifts are nice, I have a feeling that what mom wants is to spend quality time with her children, especially if you are a mother whose children no longer live in the area or live at home.

Those of us who have lost our mothers will tell you that perhaps we can give you this advice because of regrets from the past of the things we never did and said while our mothers were alive.

My family wasn’t a hugging family, so I can probably count on my two hands the number of times my mother and I grabbed each other tightly and gave a hug. When we did it always felt awkward because that was not our relationship. But now, I wish I had one more awkward hug I could give her. I wish I listened when she talked about her past. I wish I made it a habit of asking about her day more often.

In conversations with other mothers I have heard the reasons why kids, adult kids, don’t call their moms at least once a week, or if they live close, stop in for a visit. And because we are moms and we love our kids, we accept what is happening with their life because we don’t want to put more pressure on them. We always want to make our kids’ lives easier. We have all heard these words in conversation: “The kids are busy. They run from morning until night between work, household chores and getting their kids to their activities. They say they just get busy and forget to call.”

Every person needs someone in their life to ask them about their day. Every person needs someone to care about how they are feeling. It might take a few minutes for a phone call, but those few minutes may make a difference in the life of a mother, especially if mom is older and less mobile.

I watch as everyone sits in restaurants on their cell phones; I do too. And I wonder if we put away our texting for a few minutes — if we turned off the television or took a five-minute break from the hectic schedule if there would be time for one five-minute phone call to mom.

I am blessed as I already have a Mother’s Day invitation this year. My kids live within two hours, and I visit with them on a regular basis. I hope that continues as I grow older and am less mobile.

Near or far, take the time to give your mother a Mother’s Day gift that lasts all year. Give her a gift certificate with a promise to call her once a week, or if you are close by, stop in occasionally and have a cup of coffee, give her a hug and ask about her day. Let her know that no matter where you are, she is a priority when it comes to keeping in touch. After all, you were a priority of hers from the minute you were born, and she would have it no other way.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.

Alone With Myself

SOMETHING ABOUT NOTHING

by Julie Seedorf

Published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of March 27, 2017

I was home alone last week. Although my adventures weren’t quite as exciting as the “Home Alone” movie, I did have fun. Grandpa was cat sitting with the catkids. He left his cats at home to keep an eye on me. And they did. They stuck to me like glue.

I like to be home alone occasionally for a period of time. Earlier in my life I did not like being alone. I think perhaps I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin, but now I enjoy solitude for small periods of time when I don’t have to worry about meals, dishes, a clean house or doing what might be expected of me. I can be messy. I can be neat. I can turn my music up as loud as I want without worrying about another’s ears. I can clean in the middle of the night without waking anyone or I can sleep all day if I choose. We all need time with ourselves to rejuvenate and be free.

I took my home alone time to make a mess while cleaning closets, cupboards and whatever. When I clean, everything comes out and it is scattered throughout and then I put it back, but when I am alone I can leave it sit and come back to it the next day because I don’t inconvenience anyone.

This past week I found old papers from my mom’s house. I had stuffed them into a closet after she died, intending to read them a later date. I found my grandfather’s last will and testament dated 1923. I never knew my grandfather. He died in 1924.

I read through my mom’s old teaching materials. She taught in country school, and I was told she and my dad dated for 13 years. I found proof of that. It was her old calendar from 1934 where she detailed her day and what the weather was like, what family she stayed with each night when she taught, and the notations about her dates with my dad, where they went and the movies they saw. Yes, they had movies in 1934. I felt close to both of them as I read and I found a little part of my mom’s life before I was born, which gave me insight as to who she used to be when she was younger. They got married in 1946, so they did date for a long time. The problem in that era with getting married was religion. She was Catholic and he was Protestant, and she had a very Catholic Polish mother.

Then I hit the jackpot. I found all my writing papers dating back to high school and beyond. I forgot I took some classes through the mail at the University of Minnesota where I earned credit, and was amazed to find my grades were As. Why didn’t I lock that into my brain to give me confidence that possibly I could be a writer? The most valued paper I found was a speech I wrote about my dad at a time when he was ill. I was a senior in high school, and he died a couple of years later.

Having the house to myself with no interruptions gave me the time to savor the memories. Otherwise I might have tossed and not read this papers because I wanted to get things cleaned up. Like the kid in the “Home Alone” movie, I did have a few missteps. We will save my burned food adventure for another time, and I have instructed all those involved to silence or I may never get left home alone again.

My spouse is now home, and I am glad he is back. I am sure the fur will fly occasionally, although we always have a lot of fur flying because of our cat babies, but taking time for ourselves always leaves us happy to be back together even if he does hang the toilet paper one way and I do it the other. After all I hung it my way for a week. What could be better than that?

 

Shredding A Life

Column published November 21, 2016 Something About Nothing

Grandpa thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

I shredded a life today. Piece by piece I dropped it into the shredder, pushed the button and ground it up.

This has been a topsy-turvy month that has swung from the uncertainty of the presidential election to honoring our veterans, to being thankful for all we have with the celebration of Thanksgiving.

This is the month friends and family are posting 30 days of thanks on Facebook, and I intended to do that, too. I have been hit and miss, not because I have not been thankful, but I found disorganization and weariness stopping me from taking the time to post. And so, I took some time to get rid of the past that is weighing me down.

As I was shredding the life, I realized that many of the details going into my shredder were not happy things and reminded me of a time when life was anxious and sad and filled with anger and hopelessness. The papers I was shredding were the papers documenting the doctor bills, nursing home bills and details of my mother’s last four years of life.

My mother died 13 years ago. Why I still had those papers might be a mystery to many people, but I wasn’t ready to let go of the final details that documented the last years of her life until now.

With her dementia she turned against me when I tried to help her. Always an independent woman, she didn’t want my help and didn’t think she needed it. She took care of her mother for many years and she always vowed she would not be dependent on me, her only child. Because of her stubbornness in wanting to be independent it made things harder.

Before dementia set in she set things up so that if anything happened to her I could legally take care of her, her property and her finances. When she developed dementia her mind told her different things, and I became the enemy. Because of this and outsiders interference I took everything to the courts so things would be documented and no one could accuse me of doing anything illegal. It was a stressful and hard time for both of us and our family.

As I shredded these court papers, I let go of the hurt and was thankful we did things that way so she would be taken care of and protected.

While in the nursing home, she broke her arm and also her hip. As I shredded the doctor bills, I noted how inexpensive things were 13 years ago compared to what the surgeries and doctor bills would cost now. Of course at the time we thought they were high, but compared to today they were nothing. I was thankful she had insurance to pay those bills.

As I shredded the nursing home bills, I remembered the wonderful people who understood her dementia and took care of her, along with caring for my emotional state. I was thankful for the doctors and nurses that found a medication to calm her mood and give me back a funny, caring mom. I never knew the sense of humor she now had. Life had changed her from when she was young. I was also thankful for an almost death moment during those years that brought about a talk of her hopes and dreams and her letting me know I would be fine without her but she would be watching over me. Her dementia diminished for a few days after the hip surgery, and we had normal days. I was thankful God gave us that time of healing.

As I was shredding, I knew the moments, good and bad, made up my life for a short time. During that period of time, it was hard to remember the good, but I could see it and feel it now, sitting right there intermingled with the bad. The blessings were there and now I could see them and feel them.

I loved my mom. My mom loved me. If I could go back, I would say many things that I never said. I would say that I now understand what you were feeling. I now understand why we fought so much. You loved me, and as a child and teenager you wanted me to have a better life. You wanted me to be safe. I wanted you to let go. I wanted to fly away and felt you were keeping me back. You were an older mom, and it felt like we were worlds apart.

I would tell her I was sorry I wasn’t always a good daughter. I could have done things differently, and if I had the chance to do it over again I would. I would be kinder and more understanding. Had she lived longer and I had been older with more life behind me I would have known that.

As the papers hit the shredder, the feelings of sadness, guilt, and anger went into the shredder too. There was much to be thankful for in those last years of her life, and I could see it now. Had we not went through the fire we might not have gotten to the other side where the last year was one of understanding and laughter.

Through it all, the love was always there, and that is why we kept fighting to get through the muck to the other side, unaware that is what we were doing.

It is Thanksgiving week. Being thankful does not always mean giving thanks for the good times. It also means being thankful in the fire of despair. It is the glimmer of thanks peeking through that makes up our lives and keeps us living.

Happy Thanksgiving.