Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day: Three Remarkable Women

As I write this, it is Saturday evening, the day before Mother's Day. And it seemed desirable to me to write about some of the women I would honor on that special day. Before I do, I should say that, though she is not a mom, and is therefore absent from this writing, without question, Charlotte is in a category of her own of the women I've ever known and loved. If you have read this blog very long, you already know much of what I still feel for the woman I was married to for 10 years.

Mama. Her name is Ann. To me she is Mama; or sometimes “Maw”, “Mammy”, “Mammykins”. She lives in the house where she was born. Her name is not in books, on the walls listing the famous; she has no star in Hollywood; but in the records that really matter and tell the true tale, she is famous, a woman of renown and virtue, having no equal. She is that Proverbs 31 woman, and it is true: “her children rise and call her blessed.”

I inherited my love of books and reading from my Mama, my curiosity for knowledge; I inherited many of the strengths I have from her, and learned some of the rest. It was my Mama who introduced me to faith when I was only 7, and for all the years since has modeled that faith as consistently as anyone I've ever met.

When Mama became a single parent when I was 9, and my sister was 6, I witnessed her devote her entire life and energy to her children, to make sure they were provided for, nurtured, and loved.

Over the whole span of my memory, I cannot recall one single incident in my life when my Mama did not do what she did with my sister and me in her mind; she never complained of the life she was missing out on, the fun she wasn't having, the relationships she opted out of, the vacation she never had. She just quietly did what she saw as her highest calling, and she did it supremely.

As I have grown older, especially in those months when I was sick, and during and after the sad end of my marriage, my Mama has been my friend, advisor and confidante. There were dark days when I first started driving a truck after things ended with Charlotte when I don't know what I would have done if it weren't for my Mama, patiently listening to me, and encouraging me.

One of the coolest times of my life was when my Mama came out on the road in the truck with me for 10 days back in 2005. We are planning a similar trip in the fall. I'm looking forward to it.

I talk to my Mama every day. Sometimes, we just talk about trivial things, but for me it is a vital connection. It's nice to know someone, somewhere, cares where I'm at and what's going on in my solitary world (and I am fortunate to have many such people, but there is no one else with whom I have that daily connection that always makes my day a little bit better than it would have been).

And, while not many people besides my sister and me know the truth of this unassuming woman, one day, I believe she will hear these words: “Well done.”

And then everyone will know.

A few years ago, when I was at JPUSA, I wrote the following poem for Mama for Mother's Day. I insert it here only to say that the words are still as true to me today as when I wrote them.

Happy Mother's Day, Mama! I love you!

05/04/93 Mother's Day 1993

As I gaze back

over the span of my life,

wherever I've gone,

whatever I've done,

I see touches of you.

Whatever forces have shaped

the pattern of me,

whether good or ill,

yours has been the strongest:

I bear the mark of you.

In some obscure place

at the very right time,

you introduced me to life,

with a squall and a scream:

I am a part of you.

When you met the Father

who changed your life,

I must have seen something

that caused me to yearn:

I knew Him first in you.

When came the time

you had to be

both mom and dad

to my sister and me,

I saw love live in you.

When I felt the stirrings

of God's call on my life,

you urged me to hear

and then to obey:

I heard God speak through you.

When my life is spent

and my work is done,

and the fires of judgment

test what is true,

I'll know the gold came from you.

Of all the stars that shine

in the sky of my faith,

yours has burned brighter

than all the rest:

I thank my God for you.

Cindy. My sister. One of my best friends. Mom to three wonderful kids: Justin, 22, serving in the Navy; Paige, 14; and Jordyn, 7. Married to a good man, Shane. She works with special-needs kids at a local elementary school in Rome. She's going to school at night to get her teaching degree. Her faith shines from her life like the sun, and inspires everyone who knows her, including her brother.

She amazes me with her determination, no matter the challenge or the obstacle; she keeps going when most people (including me) would have long since surrendered. And she does it with such grace, people who don't know her very well would think she doesn't have a care in the world.

Her encouragement and counsel have been strength and light for me during some of my darkest days. And no matter what kind of tough time she's going through herself, in whatever arena, whenever I talk to her, instead of encouraging her, I myself come away lifted up.

My sister is one of those rare people about whom it could be said that she makes the lives of all whom she touches better for having known her. I know I'm a better man because of her influence.

Cindy, you are an incredible woman, mother, and friend. I am honored to be your brother. I love you.

Nanny. It is hard to write words about my grandmother, since we are in the middle of that “long goodbye” that Ronald Reagan so eloquently referenced in his farewell letter to the nation when he learned of his Alzheimer's.

When I think about my Nanny, so many things come to mind that I don't know how to begin to express them. But, of all the things that could be said of my Nanny, perhaps the most important for me is that from my Nanny I learned more fully than any other human example I've ever encountered the truth of unconditional love. If you told me the sky was orange, I would sooner believe that fancy than if you told me my Nanny didn't love me.

Whatever problems and insecurities I have had in my life, I have never doubted my grandmother's love, and she has never failed in 43 years to tell me and show me that love.

I was blessed growing up to spend lots of time with my grandparents, so much so that even now when I think of what the word “home” means to me, I think of her house.

Other things come to mind when I think of Nanny: her telling funny stories that made me laugh, and usually they were stories that contained the kernel of whatever history of our family preserves today; I remember her strong faith and example of it to me over the years.

I treasure the memories I have of being at her house spending the night back when she worked second shift at a local carpet mill in Rome. She'd get home about 11:00, and I'd wait up for her if it wasn't a school night, and I'd have that special time with her. And in the morning, I'd wake up with her and my granddaddy Boe, and drink coffee. I remember sitting around the kitchen table playing the board game of Aggravation with Nanny, Boe, and Nanny's sisters Mary and Phoebe. I remember riding on the bus when the gospel quartet Nanny was part of would go out of town to sing at a church somewhere. I can still smell the fried chicken cooking in that magic pan that is the best food I've ever eaten in my life just because she made it.

Every day when I talk to her, she asks me where I am, and she asks me when I am coming home. She tells me she misses me so much. We always end the call much the same way: “I love you Nanny.” “I love you, boy. You'll never know how much. And I can't wait to see you.”

While millions of people pay millions of dollars for counselors and therapists to try to find that missing piece in their heart, I just call my Nanny and hear those words. And all is well.

Happy Mother's Day, Nanny! I love you!

Of all men, I am most blessed to have women such as these in my life.

Until next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . . and Happy Mother's Day . . .


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