Posted tagged ‘Mom’

Married To A Mom

May 14, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W                                                             May 14, 2017

                               

My wife Carol gets described in an assortment of ways. I was talking to a middle school teacher on Friday and I mentioned that I was married to Carol who works with the special needs students. The teacher’s first question was, “Is she kind of short?” When I said yes, she replied, “Ohhh…she is so nice!”

Our youngest daughter would come to me a few times over the years when Carol was in the midst of a situation that was raising her blood pressure and she would warn me, “Mom is about to go Italian!” Her maiden name was Faletti, and sometimes the “excited exuberance” of her father’s ethnic roots would rise to the surface. (Did you notice how I said that in a complimentary kind of way?)

But Carol has been a mom to a number of kids that aren’t related to us. Last year our grandson’s soccer coach presented her with a tee shirt at the end of their season with the team logo on the front…and “Number One Fan” emblazoned on the back.

Even though our kids have long since graduated, she attends Liberty High School athletic contests on a regular basis…basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, swimming, football, JV contests, lacrosse…it matters not! From time to time she will even put her “Lancer Lunatic” shirt on that the students also wear.

When I went to coach at a different high school she adopted those players as some of her own. She prepared the fixings for the team dinner at our house, and chuckled from outside the circle as the players played “Mr. Boodle.”

Carol’s motherly nature, however, comes out as she helps students with special needs. A graduate from Texas Christian University, this Horned Frog got her degree in deaf education and taught preschool deaf kids for a few years before we got married. In recent years she has worked as a para-professional with the students at Timberview Middle School. If you are not familiar with the position, it takes a great amount of patience and energy. It also takes love and compassion. It takes putting the needs of the autistic student above your own. It takes the willingness to be sneezed on, change the diapers of twelve year olds, deal with parents who are rightfully very sensitive about their special children, having your hair pulled, being punched or pinched, and often not being considered part of the educational process by the administrators and teachers they rub elbows with.

But Carol’s motherly nature comes out as she walks down the hallway with the child who just needs someone to come alongside her. She is her advocate and protector as self-absorbed 8th Graders threaten to topple her over. When Carol comes home at the end of a school day she’s spent!

For years she was the Children’s Church leader at my last church pastorate. Kids would share their heart-felt burdens with her, as well as other problems. A typical Sunday might include everything from “My Granddad is really really sick and in the hospital” to “Pray for my dress, because I got peanut butter on it and my mom is going to be really really mad!” Carol listened with empathy and understanding. Many in the church never knew what a gift she was. They were just glad they weren’t being asked to do kid’s church! Since I retired almost a year and a half ago, I’m pretty sure…she misses those times of children gathering together in worship.

She is a mom to three grown children and “Grammy” to three grandchildren, and she is “Mom” to countless others who have passed through our home, her classroom, or even walked down our street.

She is a mom. It is what she is comfortable with. It is who she is!

Meeting Women With My Dad

April 8, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  April 8, 2015

                                            

I’m in Ohio for a few days visiting with my dad. Today I was able to do something that was a little weird. I met some women with my dad!

I realize that an explanation is needed. Pause for effect!

My dad moved to a brand new senior adult independent living complex a few months ago. The last time I was home for a visit it was just a concrete slab with the promise of apartments rising from it. Today it is a spanking new impressive structure with a beautiful foyer, dining room, and nice view of the Ohio River flowing just a hundred yards away.

As Dad and I walked around his hallways I met “the women.” Bonnie lives across the hall from him with flaming red hair and high painted eye brows. For a while, I found out, Dad and Bonnie partied together…that is they had a “party line” on their phones…just like it used to be back in the fifties…or whenever “Lassie” was a TV show. A party line is about as close as my dad gets to partying these days, and the phone company finally solved the problem to restore privacy to each one of them. It still was a little awkward to meet the lady who lives within whispering distance of my father.

I met Valerie who immediately gave Dad a hug. She takes care of his needs, like delivering his newspaper each morning, which she slides under his door. Whereas Bonnie is within a presidential term of my dad’s age, Valerie is a generation away from him.

And then there was a lady who used to live across the street from my dad’s house, and now she lives down the hall from him. Bonnie on one side, Valerie delivering his newspaper, and a former neighbor down the hall…he’s surrounded!

What does a sixty year old son do when he discovers that his dad is a charmer? Blush!

Mom and Dad were married for 65 years? It has been a year and a half since Mom passed away, but I’m still getting used to the reality of the present where my dad and I can have a conversation and not have Mom ask him what a six letter word for a brownish songbird would be in the middle of our conversation.

What it also says is that my father is a heck of a guy that is valued by those who meet and get to know him. He brings a warmth to a cold March afternoon, a listening ear to someone who receives minimal attention, a chuckle to the downhearted.

So let him meet all the women he wants! Bring some sunshine into the lives of the widows who keep flocking around him. Let him be a blessing to others…just as he has been a blessing to us!

Mother’s Day Without Mom

May 11, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                May 11, 2014

 

                                    “Mother’s Day Without Mom”

 

     This is the first Mother’s Day I’ve ever experienced without a mom on this side of Glory. Mom passed to the other side last September, the day after Labor Day. So today I’m in a new place just as she is. I’m walking through it with a mixture of grief and gratitude, a strange mixture…kind of like putting ketchup on top of your peanut butter, you’re not sure if it’s good or bad!

The last two Mother’s Day with Mom were grief in process. Her health had declined to the point that she wasn’t able to carry on a conversation. Calling here on the phone was a painful experience with me being in Colorado and her in Ohio. Her health difficulties had reduced her verbal capabilities to a bare minimum…and my mom was always one to be vocal!

I would send her flowers for Mother’s Day. It was the best I could do for her. She loved the floral arrangements and foliage plants that FTD would deliver…once they were able to find the house! That’s another story for another day!

I remember my mom for who she was before her afflictions took her health away. On this Mother’s Day I remember with a grateful heart the stories, the influence, and even “the look!”

“The look” could stop a freight train. It was convicting! I remember that look one afternoon when I was about ten. Mom had told me that I could go to the park in Williamstown, West Virginia where we lived, but that I could not cross the main street in town to go to the little grocery store. Back in those days before aluminum soda cans a kid could find empty pop bottles and return them to the store for three cents a piece. Two pop bottles could net me a Pay Day or Mallo Cup. But on this day my mom had explicitly forbidden me to cross that main street.

“No problem!”, I thought! What she doesn’t know won’t hurt…me! I made the journey and was munching on my Pay Day on the way back across the street when in the distance I saw a car coming that looked like our family car. I sprinted back into the park and hid behind a trash can until I was sure she had passed. Finally I raised up…and there she was…sitting there, and giving me “the look!” I was toast!

Besides the look, however, my mom would care for us. My brother and I always got new underwear for Christmas, just in case we were in an accident and they had to cut away our blue jeans. It was important to have intact pairs of “Towncraft tighty whities” on.

She could cook! And the thing is, she would cook dinner each night after working a full day at J.C. Penney’s. Not packaged meals, mind you! Home-cooked masterpieces…skillet cornbread… green beans that I didn’t appreciate back then, but now miss greatly…fried chicken…squash casserole…need I go on?

My mom had a certain scent. It’s hard to explain that, but it stayed in the nostrils of your memory. Recently I traveled back to Ohio to help my dad get some things taken care of in preparation for his move to a new senior adult independent living complex he’s moving into. Going from his three bedroom house to a one bedroom apartment has made these past few months a time of sorting for him. What will he take? What will he leave behind? What will he give away? My oldest daughter, Kecia, asked me to bring back a few specific items that she remembers about my parents’ house. A couple of the things she requested were some of MaMaw Wolfe’s dish towels and hot pads. Why? Because they have MaMaw’s scent that is special. When we would travel home to see my parents “the scent” would be a comfort, a welcoming, almost like entering a room with bread baking in the oven.

I’m grateful for “the look”, “the caring”, “the smells”, and “the scent.” Although Mom is gone, those things will stay with me…and on this different kind of Mother’s Day they make me happy!

Family Farewells

October 28, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    October 28, 2013

 

                                          

     Today is a good day… with a taste of sorrow.

I’ve been back in southern Ohio for the past week, spending time with my dad and sister. It has been just shy of two months since I was here last for my mom’s funeral, and gatherings associated with it. Two weeks ago my dad, escorted by my sister and brother-in-law, came out to Colorado for our daughter’s wedding. This week, however, has been focused on spending time together with no agenda or meetings. Sitting in the family room watching the World Series and Ohio State football, eating my sister’s exceptional cooking, reading the Ironton Tribune, which takes less time than it does to drive down to the store to get a copy of it. This week has been about a lack of urgency, something that seems a little foreign to my usual schedule.

Today is the day of departure. We will say our final words, realizing that it could very well be our final words in each other’s company. There’s a specialness to those closing moments, even as our souls ache in the midst of the pain such separation causes us.

It used to be that my brother, sister, and I would worry about losing Dad first. Mom’s health had been declining for years, but my dad has had cardiac problems for years. If the Lord called him home first Mom would need to go to a full-care facility. Although it taxed his strength, Dad wanted Mom to be cared for at their home for as long as possible. It meant hiring a home health care person to come in for at least four hours a day, and sometimes up to eight hours a day. Dad’s schedule revolved around Mom’s needs. After she passed I asked him what he was going to do in the coming week after we had left. He looked at me and, with a hint of despondent confusion, replied, “Well, Bill, I have no idea!”

The remark wasn’t about being freed up to do what he wanted, but rather about unwanted freedom.

As I drive to Charleston, West Virginia with him and my brother-in-law, Mike, we’ll do some story-telling, have some quiet moments, and tell one another how much we love each other. Dad will give me a farewell hug, and I will feel the sadness within him.

Farewells are painful and piercing. They stay with us as we walk to our next point. We wish it were not so, and yet we are thankful for it being that way.

Speaking to Mom

September 7, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W                                               September 7, 2013

 

 

Most who are reading this know that my mom passed away on September 3. Her funeral was yesterday. After the service at Hall’s Funeral Home in Proctorville, Ohio, the family traveled about an hour and a half to Highland Memorial Gardens outside of Staffordsville, Kentucky for her graveside. I was asked to conduct the graveside service. Now, understand that I’ve conducted a lot of graveside services over the years, but this was different. This was for Mom, the one who changed my diapers and kept me in line. One doesn’t just read a scripture, recite a poem, and close in prayer at his mother’s cemetery plot. The following are my last words to Mom before her casket was lowered into the ground just to the foot of her parents’ graves, and also in the company of her sister Irene, and husband Milliard Vance, her brother Dewey Junior Helton (who I always thought  was actually named Junior…Uncle Junior!), and his wife Grethel, and Mom’s brother-in-law, Bernie Whitt. Her sister, Cynthia Whitt, age 91, is the last of the six children still living.

“Family plot” is an appropriate term for that section of the cemetery! And those of us who are still walking upright were gathered there with them.

Dear Mom,

    I know that you are in heaven now. As I thought about who you are- your personality, likes and dislikes- and who you have been, and I thought about where you are now, I started pondering what it is about heaven that impresses you…not that there is anything in heaven that is unimpressive!

     I know that you will be taken back by how immaculate everything is in Glory. Everything is perfectly placed. There is no hint of chaos. There isn’t a place in the whole expanse that “looks like a tornado hit it” (Your term used often to describe my bedroom!). 

      Everything is clean! Cleanliness is next to godliness…and now you know that it also describes the area next to God! The order of heaven has brought a smile to your face. If heaven has magazines they are neatly arranged. Good Housekeeping would figure prominently in the tidy mix.

      I know you will also be thrilled to discover that there is no death, mourning, crying, or pain there. The last few years have had their share of those things…from the passing of siblings and friends…to the pain of your illnesses. Dad and Rena often found that there was nothing they could do to comfort you, to make things so you would not hurt. They did not want you to be in pain, but there was a pained helplessness within them as they waited by your bedside. Heaven, as you have discovered, does not have a hospital ward…or doctor’s waiting rooms…or pills to take and health insurance forms to submit.

      In heaven I’m sure you are rejoicing with those who have gone before you. I know you’re experiencing a reunion of the saints. There’s been a separation that has now come back together. 

      Can you hear Aunt Rene’s laughter? 

      Do people still have Kentucky accents there, which, I know, Kentuckians have thought are pretty heavenly on this earth? 

       Is the aforementioned Uncle Junior still allowed to pinch the legs of unsuspecting little boys…like he would do to me while sitting in the swing together at Mamaw and Papaw Helton’s house? 

       Have you seen Papaw yet, and does he drink buttermilk in heaven? I always thought that buttermilk was disgusting, so I’m assuming he is having to go “buttermilk cold turkey” for the rest of eternity.

      And, Mom, you’re seeing the Lamb of God, Jesus, with the multitudes encircling him in praise and adoration of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Since I know you were always impressed with Easter Choir Cantatas, you must be standing there with your mouth wide open in awe of what you are now hearing and seeing. 

      We grieve your death, but we rejoice in your life, and now…new life. As the scripture says “…we live by faith, not by sight.”

      Because of our shared faith we know that someday we will be reunited with you, and for that we are thankful!

Losing Mom

September 5, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          September 5, 2013

      It is hard to change from what has always been!

For all my life my mom has always been. Today is day three of this new place, this new part of the journey, that has never been a part of me before.

This is stranger than all the other changes in my life. It isn’t like switching from cassette tapes to CD’s, or even moving from Michigan to Colorado. Losing a parent is like losing part of your identity. You go back and look at old family pictures. Mom was there at my third birthday. When I think of birthdays I still think of two-layer coconut white cake. When I think of Christmas celebrations in our house on Lexington Road in Winchester, Kentucky, Mom was there…a little drowsy, but she was there. I didn’t understand at that point that the night had been short for her. I thought she had gone to sleep right after the kids did, so that she wouldn’t be in Santa’s way.

When Dad was having to travel for his position with the Social Security Administration Mom was there with us “three munchkins.” She rarely used the excuse of working all day and not having the energy to cook dinner…so let’s go out to eat! Skillet cornbread and a pot of home-grown green beans was often our meal. In fact, the first time I had yellow cornbread I felt someone had made a mistake, because it was way different than Mom’s. I had the same reaction to “ham salad”. I didn’t realize that REAL ham salad had ham in it. Ours was made out of baloney, and it was awesome! No one told me it was “poor man’s ham salad!”

In fact, food often defined Mom. We never had to go to Bob Evan’s Restaurant. We were better!

Oyster dressing at Thanksgiving! Fried chicken! Squash casserole! Christmas fruit cake! Sweet tea! Sunday night popcorn as we watched The Ed Sullivan Show. Soup beans and the same aforementioned skillet cornbread.

Mom and Dad teamed together before equality was a popular term. Dad always drove, but Mom always talked and prompted discussion. In an age before cell phones, conversations were always “in car.” No one else was there to interfere, unless it was Tennessee Ernie Ford singing “Sixteen Tons” on the staticy radio.

Mom was always shotgun. The three kids always sat in the back seat. On the long trips to Paintsville, Kentucky, we could be assured that Mom would drift off at some time. The idea for bobblehead dolls came from watching her head bobble back and forth in a few moments of quiet slumber. The snickers from the back seat would some how awake her and we would then receive “the look.”

She was a perfectionist. Quite often when we lived on Thomas Street in Ironton, Ohio, she would tell me to go clean my room because “…it looks like a tornado hit it!” I’d go into my bedroom and the “tornado” had resulted in a bed spread being uneven and a closet door being open. I had a distorted view of the damage that tornados can do as a result of that. Our house was clean. In fact, in recent years when Mom and Dad were hiring someone to come in once a month to clean the lady would show Dad the cleaning cloth she used that had no visible remnants of dust or dirt on it. There was suspicion that Mom had cleaned before the lady had gotten there because she didn’t want the house to look like a tornado had hit it. That would be an  embarassment!

College graduation photos…Mom was there. Seminary graduation photos…Mom was there! Wedding photos…Mom was there!

And so now I enter into a time that has never been. She is not there, and yet she is. The smells and scents as I entered my parents’ house on Tuesday were connections to Mom. Opening the refrigerator and seeing pimento cheese reminded me of Mom.

I can hear her voice in the silence. Even though I am in a time that has never been before the whispers of the past cling to the present.

Thank you, Mom! Who I am can not be separated from who you were.