…ninety-five years old yesterday. I thought about it the day before – Friday, October 4th, and on what would have been her 95th birthday yesterday, October 5th. I’m still thinking about it today. This year was a little strange for me. The newspaper had an article that had to do with things that happened in Indiana during the 1990’s and many of the images were things that Janet and I remembered but seemed so far away from our current situation. Frankly, it would have been much easier to see images of the Chicago skyline and neighborhoods that we grew up with. But another thing happened in the 1990’s as well – just not in Indy. Mom died… in September, 1998. It was the end of an era in our family.
I kept looking at the images and saw a link to additional photos from the 1980’s. They seemed even more distant to me. Of course, with the memories of Mom, I started thinking about the 1970’s, the 1960’s and even the 1950’s – all the way back to when I was born in 1953. The memories of the past, with both Mom and Dad, are still rooted in Chicago. Dad has been gone even longer than Mom – since 1978.
But Mom was the one who cared for us day in and day out. The dentist downtown at the Pittsfield Building, strolling through the old Marshall Field’s store where Mom worked before I was born. Having lunch under the famous Field’s Christmas Tree in the Walnut Room and even racing slot cars at a hobby store that we used to visit whenever we were downtown – or visiting her dressmaker on the near north end of downtown.
I remember the day that Grandpa called and asked if Mom liked white or yellow. Mom chose yellow but he wouldn’t tell her what she was getting. He pulled up in a new 1964 Chevy Impala and presented her with the keys. He did the same thing six years later. Mom was my grandparents’ only child and they did their best to spoil her – I am sure that my Dad appreciated their help since there were three of us boys.
Mom’s later years are more difficult to me to remember. It seems that my mind wanders back to the days when we were younger people and the family was complete. After Dad died, the fabric and interactions of the family dynamic changed and while Mom lived 20 years longer, the way our family operated wasn’t quite the same. It wasn’t anyone’s fault – it was just that we were missing one of our nuclear members.
When Mom passed away, I made it my responsibility, as the oldest, to make sure that my brothers and I stayed as close as we possibly could. We live in different states, but we have stayed in touch and I see Doug, my middle brother, every month. Invariably, we will talk about the past and our childhoods together. and every so often, we will get together with Ken, our youngest brother, as well. We are all that is left of our “original” family.
I also think about how lucky people are who still have their parents alive as the kids enter their sixties and seventies. Janet’s parents passed away six years ago – within 18 days of each other. But we were blessed to have them so long and I frequently think of what it would be like to still have Mom and Dad here with us. For whatever reason, that wasn’t meant to be for my family.
Each year when we celebrated Mom’s birthday as kids, Dad took us out to a restaurant and we celebrated together. I remember the shrimp cocktails, the relish tray and the steaks we used to get at The Barn near where we lived in Beverly. It was too expensive for us on a regular basis, but Dad always found a way for us to celebrate our birthdays there. Now even the restaurant is gone.
I recently googled the house that we grew up in. It brings back such fond memories. At the time, I couldn’t wait to be old enough to make my own decisions about life – and now, I wish I was young enough that I could re-live some of those great times with my parents. I hope our children are making the most of their memories with Janet and me. Because as I get older, I realize even more what a blessing it must be to grow old with your parents – an experience that I never had…
There’s no doubt about it. With three boys, Mom sacrificed a lot for us. Dad worked long hours and most of the raising of us was left to Mom during the week. While I wish that we could have had her longer, she taught us to care for one another, to take care of our own families and to make sure that our reputations were above reproach. I like to think that she would be proud of the effort that we have collectively made. Were there ever problems and petty jealousies? Certainly… Our verse for this evening comes from Paul, the author of a letter to the church at Thessaloniki.
Paul makes mention of the fact that he and his companions didn’t want to be a burden to the young church, but compared himself to being gentle, like a mother. Paul tells us, in 1 Thessalonians 2:6-7, “As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.”
My encouragement tonight is that God puts mothers in most of our lives to love us well and to take care of us in our youth. As time goes on, we tend to take those sacrifices for granted, but that is not the way that God wants us to act. My prayer is that we will remember the things our mothers have done for us and not let them fall into obscurity as time marches on. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…