Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Mom

Moving forward is causing me to look back.  Downsizing does that.  Sorting through photographs to keep or toss, reading old letters.   

Up pops my mom in my musing.  Not easy.    It's that mother/daughter thing.  Love-hate, friend-competitor, playmate-parent.     Too many hats, too many dual roles, all threatening, or wonderful depending on the day or mood.  

When my mom was young she was beautiful and lively.  We lived in Ojai, California where she danced, I mean really danced.  She was a square dance caller, taught folk dance classes several time a week and performed from time-to-time.  Dance festivals and costumes consumed her, and our family.  

My mom, a playful, energetic woman

Wilma Abel,  mid 1940's

Wilma Abel, late 1940's

At the same time she danced, she  went back to school to get her teaching certificate.  If I wanted a real mom I didn't have one.  She was busy and involved and wanted so much more than parenting!  I think I could call my upbringing neglectful.    Yet, as I write the word neglectful, I recall her warm, soft hand on my sick-little-girl brow.  

My mom with my sister and I

 At a very young age I had a huge territory, probably about three square miles.  My girlfriend, Cara, and I traveled  by foot, bike or donkey all over that territory.  We explored, built forts and snacked from orchards.  No cell phones for checking in.  In fact,  no phone at all out in the country where we lived.  Despite the freedom I enjoyed, my mom was tough, designing the punishment to fit the crime.  Once, when I caused a fire by helping out, my punishment was to sit by the charred earth for several hours to make sure it didn't reignite.

My mom graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara when I was in 6th grade.   Boy, were we proud!  After her graduation we relocated to Auburn, California and she began her first teaching job at Placer Hills Elementary School.   Years later she retired from that same school.  

Wilma Abel, teacher
Placer Hills Elementary School

Moms bring out the "I'll never do that!" in their daughters.  I hit the "I'll never do that!" when my mom settled.  Settled into weight gain, an inactive life and sensible shoes.    She maintained an adventuresome spirit, but tampered way down.  Loving my mom was challenging for both of us, as I wanted her forever young.    That youthful mom of my early years, the dancing mom,  became my model.  I didn't let that model go easily.  

After my dad died, my mom settled even more.  Sedentary became the norm.  She remarried.  My stepdad was a nice man and took good care of my mom in her last illness but he was terribly dull.  I suspect my mother thought so too but by now she didn't want to be alone.  She settled deeper.

My mom died a horrible death, loosing her ability to walk or talk.  My feisty kick-up-her-heels mom  became completely helpless and dependent on others.   But, from time-to-time, she still liked to chase a sunset, so we did.    One of her caregivers giggled with her to the very end.  It was beautiful. 

I hope my dying breath will be a giggle.


"Gratitude is the heart's memory." 

  ~ French Proverb


  1. As is often the case, these memories of a parent are a complex mixture of beautiful and sad at the same time. Sounds like your mom tackled life with spirit and imagination. You did well to claim the best from your childhood and come away with some personal goals about growing older as a strong individual. I enjoyed reading this both for the insight about you and also because it made me think about life and what's important. Well done, Fran.

  2. Thanks Dan. A tricky subject, for sure! I always appreciate your thoughtful feedback.