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My Mother’s Daughter – Becoming Me

My nickname is MagCindy.

It’s one of two names my mother called me. I think I have held onto this for over sixty years because it makes me feel closer to my mom. I was 19 years old, one year out of high school and already in the Air Force when she died. It was a devastating loss which I have explored many times, but not today. Today is about a woman I wish I had known as a woman myself. I think we would have learned a lot from each other.

MyMomI was never a risk taker. Mom always was. She was fearless. I was fearFULL. Earlier today I heard someone say that you are never safe in life. But in death, you’re safe. Let that sink in. Since my mother died, I’ve gradually learned to be more like her, but boy has that taken a lot of effort. But I don’t want to be safe. I want to FEEL, even if it’s risky.

Freida Mae Swift Shortt was a tough cookie. Being her daughter meant you had expectations. It wasn’t enough to be something to someone else, you had to be something on your own. It did not matter one iota what that was – but there has to be something. She supported everything I ever did. Civil Air Patrol nerd – check. Struggling artist – check. Waitress – check. Air Force airman – check. She was proud of her kids – each and every one of us – with every accomplishment, big or small – she was beaming with pride.

Mom was also a jokester, embarrassing to a young girl at times, but her intentions were always positive. My friends all loved her. Every kid in the neighborhood was welcome at our house. Whatever we had, she lovingly shared. When we moved from Virginia to Ohio, it was a hoot. We were quite the ‘country come to town’. Mom fried chicken, made biscuits and milk gravy, and made banana salad (banana sliced length wise, smeared with Miracle Whip and covered with chopped peanuts) for dinner. My friends loved to come to our house to eat – she was a great cook. Country all the way, though.

MyMom2Don’t get me wrong, Mom was not domestic-centric. She wanted to be outside and housework was the last thing she ever wanted to do. That was all left to us. We had a wringer washer and no drier. Clothes were hung outside on the line or in the basement. She didn’t have time to waste waiting on wash cycles and spin cycles. Wash, rinse, get out. No, not crazy about being inside, but outside – she was a force to be reckoned with. She played tag football in the front yard with us and loved being around all our friends. She was very much a people person – another way I wish I could have been more like her. She also enjoyed her quiet time, weeding her portulaca or pruning her bleeding heart.

MyMom3In the forty plus years since she passed away, I have learned more about her as a person. I have letters from friends in high school and her sense of humor was always evident. Pictures that have surfaced show her in a way I never imagined. I always knew she was full of life, but seeing her as a young woman with dreams of her own makes me wish so much we had been given the gift of an adult friendship to share. I know we would have been best friends.

Mom never got to see me as a wife, a mother or a grandmother. There would have been some tough talks along the way had she been there. When I made my stupid mistakes – she would not have shied away from those conversations. Mom wasn’t about hiding her feelings. All in all, however, I think she would have been proud of me. Especially today’s me. I hope she would realize that I attribute a lot of who I am to her and the lessons she taught me in those 19 short years we were together.

So how did this woman who seems to be my polar opposite impact who I am? This is a question I pondered for years and years for we are very different. Mom was a ‘you made your bed now you lie in it’ kind of mom on the surface. In actuality, she understood more than she ever let on. She taught me about honesty and speaking your truth, and doing what’s right. She taught me about being prepared to take care of myself should the need ever arise. She taught me how to exist in moments of silence and look my demons dead in the eye. She taught me about sacrifice. Most of all, she taught me about staying above the fray. That was a hard one and I admit I was not always successful at it, but her lessons are still engrained deep in my brain.

IMAG4468-1Moms never stop mothering – at least the good ones. I wish she had been there when my children were born. I wish I could have seen her rock my babies and sing to them. She taught me to sing the songs that would stay with them forever. The simple, easy songs. The ones that you never forget.

Down in the meadow in an itty bitty pool
Swam three little fishies and a Mama fish too
The Mama fish cried ‘now swim if you can’
And the ‘fam and they fam’ all over the dam.

I love you, Mom.

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The Birthday Mother’s Day Mix

Today was a mixed bag of worries and blessings. People I love are sick and facing hospital stays and tests and unknowns and it is hard to be on the sidelines watching helplessly as the clock ticks by.

In the midst of the craziness that made up my day, my husband told me to check my phone. We were on our way out to run errands and I didn’t give his words a second thought. As I walked to where my phone was, I saw two boxes. One was a long box and a separate box, square and nondescript. It took a minute, but it hit me that this weekend is Mother’s Day.

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I opened the boxes and found beautiful long-stemmed roses from my daughter and daughter-in-law. They were gorgeous. In the other box was an ice-pack and a box of truffle cookies.  Each were packaged with lovely notes straight from the heart. I immediately took a couple of pictures and sent a text thanking them for the thoughtful gifts. I am so blessed to be loved and remembered. The gifts are nice, but it’s really the love that means everything.

 

 

DaddyLater in the day, as I checked my phone for messages, I noticed the date. Tomorrow would be my father’s birthday. He would be turning 89 tomorrow if he were still here. 89. Wow. That seems so hard to fathom. Time has gone by so quickly and I miss him so much it guts me. I had a special connection with my Dad – one that I never apologize for even though some people make me feel I should. Dad wasn’t perfect, but to me, he was everything. He loved me – he loved all of us – and that is what I miss. The talks, his deep bass voice, the way he said my name – the advice I never wanted to hear but repeat to myself over and over now. He was my Dad and I miss him.

IMAG4468-1Re-enter Mother’s Day. My mom would also be 89 this year. She was so young when she passed away that 89 doesn’t even seem possible. She will always be young and vibrant to me. She had a smart-assed way of saying what was on her mind and she was SO strong. My sisters got her strength and her wit. I think I got her way of turning inward to process thoughts and feelings. I rarely feel strong. I remember my first Mother’s Day without her. I was living away from home and at the time, long distance calls were quite expensive. I was walking through the mall and passed a group of short wave radio people who had come together to help people make calls home for Mother’s Day. One of the young women asked me if I wanted to call my mom. I just said “No thanks” and walked on. Then her words – “Why, don’t you love your mother?” I wanted to lunge at her and take all my anger out on her, but I didn’t. I just walked away – hurt and feeling lost in this world. It would take many years before I could get through a Mother’s Day without feeling broken.

Now I have the blessing of children and grandchildren and extended family. I am not sad – I am blessed. The timing this year is unusual – Dad’s birthday and Mother’s Day together. So, today I process and just put aside the little girl and remember that I am now the mom and the grandmother and the JOY comes right back.

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Tonight I shared my truffles with my husband with a glass of wine. I sent a Snap Chat to thank my girls for the gift. SO MUCH JOY!

I will stay up until midnight, and wish my Dad a Happy Birthday and wish my Mom a Happy Mother’s Day.

Saturday we are meeting my son and his wife and two of my beautiful grandchildren for a sweet Mother’s Day dinner. We will laugh and celebrate this holiday together for the first time in 20 years. It will be perfect.
Today was a day of reflection mixed with JOY and a little worry, but it brought me to a place of gratitude for all I have been blessed with in this life. We are who we surround ourselves with and by those standards, I’m pretty perfect.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Mom, Happy Mother’s day a little early.

Thank you for everything but most of all thanks for the love and the memories. I miss you both and only hope I can somehow in some small way fill those giant shoes for my family.

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My Sister’s Birthday

IMAG1677-1It started ten or fifteen days ago. I walked through the grocery store, looked up and saw the card display. Rosie’s birthday was approaching.

I’m not sure I will ever fully come to terms with losing her. I still reach for the phone to call her before it hits me that she is gone.

I struggle to remember every little thing about our life together but try as I might, I cannot remember everything. Of course, none of us remember everything. We don’t realize it until it’s too late – too late to capture the memories in some tactile way. I have a message from her on my answering machine. Every time I play it, I cry. I have a few cards and letters, but not near all the letters and cards she ever sent me. As I sit here today, I wish I had kept them all. This electronic world we live in is great, but nothing can replace the handwriting or the slow tenor of a voice you hear when you read a letter from someone you love.

IMAG1699-1After Rosie passed away, I wrote a simple blog entry entitled Rosie’s Rose. The blog was about a rose that suddenly bloomed after years of lying dormant. Today when I glanced out the back door, I saw a flash of red. There, as bright as it could be, was a rose. Rosie’s rose. I walked outside with my phone and snapped a picture. There are two roses blooming and seven buds. Never has there ever been more than one rose on this bush at one time. I guess some might say it a coincidence that this rose appeared today. Perhaps. But I believe in a spirit that lives beyond the confines of this world and I think this rose appears when I need to know my sister is with me.

Rosie, tomorrow, is your birthday. It feels strange not to pick out the perfect card to send you. Tomorrow I will feel a certain sadness when I cannot pick up the phone and call you. Even so, I am blessed to have you as my sister and I know you remain with me still.

Happy Birthday, Sissy.  I love you to the moon and back again.

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DOMA and Proposition 8

Landmark Supreme Court rulings today as sections of DOMA were ruled unconstitutional and California’s Proposition 8 was struck down:

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”

For many of my family members, my friends and so many people I do not even know, this is a landmark decision. I know the arguments will continue and I know that people will continue to take sides.

I do not care to discuss the ‘sides of this argument’ with anyone. Today I only want to tell a story of love.

In 1975, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. We have been through so much together – good and bad I guess, but falling on the GOOD side of the scale. We have always loved each other and supported each other in this life. She reached a point in her life that she trusted our relationship enough to tell me she was gay. She wept with worry about so many things, but I knew in my heart she felt free to be herself for the first time in her life. My love for her would never change — how could it? I do not understand how you love a child one day, and withdraw that love the next. Nothing had changed. She was the same person I had spent my entire life loving, and I was the same person she had spent her life loving.

This year, we were proud to attend her wedding to a beautiful woman who is now my second daughter. I love her as my own. Their marriage is not legal in this state, but it is every bit a marriage in terms of love and commitment to each other. If anything ever happened to either of them, we would be steadfast in our love for the other – because as in any marriage – they are now one spirit in two bodies.

This morning before the ruling, I again watched this video hoping change would be forthcoming. For some people in this fight, the rulings are too late, but these individuals are just as much a part of my fight as my own children.

For my niece and her wife and their baby girl, I celebrate. For my daughter and her wife, I celebrate. Their love has taught us all a little bit more about love – the kind you REALLY have to fight for.

I came back to edit this post and add a link to another long-ago post entry that is so relevant in my heart and my mind, that I felt I needed to connect the two:

In Memory and Honor of Michael