Tag Archives: love for mother

Ruby

1 Oct

October 1 is World Communion Sunday; a day shared by many churches & denominations. The observation of the day attempts to promote Christian unity & cooperation. We had communion at our church this morning.

Whether you are a religious person or tend not to be, the simple act of sharing food & drink with people … friends & acquaintances … is most often a pleasant experience & one that brings us closer to our tablemates & encourages us to commune with them.

Taking a cue from World Communion Sunday & its many considerations, our pastor chose today to bring a sermon to his congregation about what it means to be “white” in this country & conversely, what it means to be “black.” It was one of those “out on a limb” topics that sometimes carries with it feelings of discomfort for some listeners, especially in today’s world filled with heightened racial tensions, Black Lives Matter, racial profiling & the rearing up of that ugly head of the  KKK.  While the sermon may have engendered a feeling of discomfiture in some, it was a timely sermon that resonated with me on many levels.

I’m not writing this blog entry to argue black & white. We all know the issues, we SEE the inequality that continues to exist today & we try to make a difference where & when we can for a cause we are passionate about. I have very strong feelings about those issues but would certainly over-use my allotted WordPress blog space if I allowed myself to debate those issues or attempt to make a ton of points here on this warm, beautiful, early fall Sunday afternoon. Instead, I’m simply writing this blog entry about Ruby.

Even before my dad died when I was 6, my mom had a close friend. Her name was Ruby. To this day I have no recollection of how Ruby & my mom ended up being friends & neither is alive today for me to check that point with.  At the end of the day, it probably isn’t so important to my story & if it is, I will never know. What’s important to me is simply Ruby & that today, many years after both she & my mom have died, I am remembering her because of a heartfelt sermon delivered on World Communion Sunday by our pastor.

I was born & lived the first 10 years of my life in the south; in Salisbury, NC. My mom, especially after the untimely death of my dad, was the central focus of my life. She worked at the local telephone company as an operator, she took me to movies on her days off, dressed up with me on Halloween, took me to feed stale bread to the ducks on the lake in the park & she had a black friend.

I really can’t remember when Ruby wasn’t a part of my life. She would sometimes baby sit for me when my mom had to work an evening shift & occasionally stayed overnight with me if my mom had to work the night shift. It all seemed very natural to me in an era where such things were considered MOST unnatural.

Ruby took me fishing for the very first time in my life & to lunch at her house where I sat beside a niece who was in a high chair. The baby kept touching my arm, then touching her own, apparently marveling at the color difference & even THAT didn’t seem unnatural to me. It wasn’t that I wasn’t “aware” or that I wasn’t a bright child.  It WAS that Ruby was a part of our lives & we hers, & that was what I considered natural in the days long before it was.

Ruby was a single mom & after my dad died she & my mother had even more in common. She had a job doing what she called “day work” but she was always available to help my mom when she needed someone to stay with me if she had to work a late shift. During those times Ruby became very much like a second mother to me. There are no words for how I loved her.

The very first time that I became aware of the racial difference between us was on a Saturday when my mom had to work & Ruby stayed with me during the afternoon. She decided we should go to a movie & I was excited about it. So we walked the several blocks to the old Capital Theater & Ruby bought our tickets.

In those days … days of segregation … Rosa Parks had not so long before defiantly refused to sit on the back of that bus & white people still sat in the main theater at a movie.  Black people sat exclusively in the balcony with “their kind.”  Because that rule was pretty solid on the day Ruby took me to the movie, & because she was the adult & I was pre-school, we headed to the balcony. I was excited because I’d never sat in the balcony & I was with Ruby.

Children see things so differently. As children we are not born with prejudice. It’s a LEARNED behavior. There is so much to be said for the title of the Star Trek episode, “And the Children Shall Lead.” While it was not one of the best Trek episodes, there is much to consider in the words of the title & so much we could learn from our children; perhaps now more than ever before.

So Ruby & I took our popcorn & found a seat in the balcony; a balcony filled with black people who had suddenly gone totally quiet while staring at me. Just a reminder: I was a VERY white little child with cottony white / blond hair & very blue eyes. I couldn’t have been more conspicuous had I been seated directly under a black light. People in the balcony said things. A couple pointed. Ruby glared at them & told me just to eat my popcorn & watch the movie. After the first little while everything settled down, the movie came on & I was no longer the center of attention in the balcony of the Capital Theater that particular Saturday afternoon.  Like a mother hen protecting her chick, Ruby, with her I dare you to say another word icy stare that she spread around the balcony, saved the movie & saved the day.

When my mom remarried & we moved, I cried from the moment we left NC until we crossed the state line into Virginia. I wept for leaving the only home I’d ever known & for leaving Ruby; a woman who loved me & became one of the most important central figures of my life.

My mom & I stayed in touch with Ruby until her death in the mid-1980s. Sometimes I would drive the 4 hours to Salisbury & visit with her. On the mantel in her living room was a child’s toy; a stage coach being pulled by 4 running horses driven by a cowboy wearing a vest with fringe. It was a toy I had loved as a child & when I outgrew it, Ruby made it a decorating reminder in her living room of a part of her life that she was all too aware was far ahead of its time.

I am forever grateful to my mother for being the loving, special, strong woman that she was. In many ways she was courageous. In her time & in Ruby’s it took courage to have a black friend, or in Ruby’s case, a white one. Together they taught me to love or dislike a person because of their “character” & not their color. They taught me to appreciate people for their “gifts” & not their race. They taught me to appreciate diversity.

Because my mother was the woman she was who possessed that amazing strength of character & her huge capacity to love, Ruby was a larger-than-life influence & positive part of my life. Without my mom’s direction I would never have known Ruby’s love & that would have been one of the great tragedies.

As our pastor spoke this morning, my mind took me for a quick travelogue experience back to NC & I thought of the beautiful experience that was Ruby. In the midst of current racial tensions we see each time we turn on the nightly news or in some cases, experience, I wish the world could suddenly be transported with me back to all those years ago when I was the only little white person sitting in a theater balcony with the warmth & protection that was Ruby.

Children are often smarter than we give them credit for.

Thank you, Pastor Josh for a lovely sermon & my personal trip down Memory Lane.

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Mother’s Day

10 May

At 84 she was frail & ravaged by end-stage COPD when she died due to a 40 year history of smoking. She quit when she was 68 but by then the worst of the damage was done, yet she lived 16 more years, as much by sheer determination as by good medical intervention. Towards the end of her life she described herself, not as frail, but as “fragile.”

After I went through a divorce, she promised not to go “anywhere” until I was settled. And she didn’t. She lived long enough to see me married to my husband, Willy & finally happy.

I loved my mother more than anything, ever. From the time I was old enough to pray with understanding, the main message in my prayers was for the safety of my mom & that I be allowed to have her in my life a while longer. Subconsciously, that was probably in part due to the sudden loss of my father when I was 6 to an unexpected coronary thrombosis. I harbored the fear that my remaining parent might be taken from me just as suddenly.

Throughout my life my mom was my teacher, my mentor, my best friend & my disciplinarian. She saw to it that I had everything I needed & a lot of what I really wanted, even if it meant working extra hours or long weekends at the phone company. Many of the lessons I learned from her were taught to me through her wonderful & unique sense of humor & the optimistic view she had of life, which she held onto even in the face of personal disappointment.

Growing up, my elementary school girl friends loved pajama parties at my house mainly because of my mom & my high school best friend, who couldn’t talk to her own mother, talked to mine.

My mom taught me compassion, understanding & love. She taught me respect, not only for people but all living things. She taught me to believe in myself, my judgement & my decisions but she also taught me humility & how to admit when I was wrong or had made a mistake. She taught me to understand finances, to be independent, how to manage my bank account & my emotions. She was there WITH me & always FOR me.

I believe most everyone’s mom was / is like that but to me my mother was unique in the universe & to this day, she continues to be.

Most of the critical medical problems I’ve had have been since my mother’s death. But, oh, how I wished she had been there with me when they reared their ugly heads. I especially missed her when I was diagnosed with breast cancer & went through nearly a year of chemotherapy & radiation. I believe she would have been proud of the way I handled all that & the life changes I’ve made as a result of it but mainly I wished for her closeness during those times because of her way of handling illness. She would tell me, “It’s going to be alright,” & I always believed her, even though I knew intellectually it wasn’t always going to be.

When she knew her time was limited she tried to tell me things she wanted me to know; from stories of her life she’d never shared with anyone but wanted to, to where important papers were. I couldn’t listen & she responded by gently asking me, “Do you think I’m going to live forever?” My response to her was a very defiant, “I’m counting on it.” And so she told my husband everything she wanted me to know & after her death, when he thought I could handle it, he told those things to me. I came to think of those times as Mama Moments & through his telling them to me from his heart where she’d placed them, it helped keep her alive a while longer when I really needed her to be.

When I feel lonely without my mom & the special feelings of warmth & security we feel when our moms hold us close, I remember her sense of humor & the wonderfully unexpected & humorous things she said. And I smile. Sometimes I burst into laughter & feel her at my side, reaching out to grab my hand while smiling into my eyes & into my heart.

One of the things I miss most, aside from conversations, afternoons shopping, lunches at our favorite restaurants, sharing exceptional books & going to spur-of-the-moment movie matinees is no longer being anyone’s “little girl.” No matter how old she & I were or got to be, I was always that to her & we both knew it & were wrapped in the warm cocoon of that knowledge & that special place we shared. It is a love that is shared only by mothers & daughters & I am forever blessed to have known that in my life & to have been in that special place.

The author, Mitch Albom wrote a novel several years ago called, For Just One More Day.  Its premise is a simple one & here is a description of the premise as it appears in the advertisement for the novel:

A beautiful, haunting novel about the family we love & the chances we miss.

   FOR ONE MORE DAY is the story of a mother & son, & the relationship that covers a lifetime & beyond. It explores the question, “What would you do if you could spend just one more day with a lost loved one?”

I bought the book because I was intrigued with the possibility & the premise set loose in me a huge desire to have just one more day with my mom. What would I tell her? What would she tell ME? How could I ever let her go again?

Mainly I would just like to hug her & feel the warmth of her …  that frail body…  & drown in the hugeness of her personality & her love for me … to be her “little girl” For Just One More Day.

I’d tell her, Happy Mother’s Day & thank her especially for being my Mom.