Fifty one plus some

I’m Fifty one years, 6 months and 26 days old. In a couple of months I’ll be the same age as my mother was.. when she died.

My mom was beautiful, but she was no saint. She could drink you under the table in her day I suppose. I don’t really remember. She stopped drinking when I was in elementary school. But I remember pieces of growing up in an alcoholic family. Waiting out the fights with my big sister in the garage. The weekends at the lake where beer would flow heavily, and so would the fists. My parents were mean drunks. I was spared most of my life from that as I was the youngest. I can’t say the same for my brothers and sisters.

No, she wasn’t a saint, but she was the strongest woman I knew. That is until I recognized that in my sister. My mom raised 5 kids, buried one and worked through 3 (maybe 4) husbands – the last being my dad with which she spent more than 20 years. My mom kept her side of the family to herself. Never really revealing much about her upbringing except her loyalty to the Salvation Army for their influence in her young life, when my grandmother was not able to care for her and my Uncle. Much of those secrets I would have never known if it wasn’t for Ancestry and the rabbit hole I fell down one summer. Her life would have just been a mystery – but never a secret.

My mom was strong; and loyal. She followed my dad around the country after having moved her entire life and family into a 50ft school bus. She never looked back or complained. She was a true matriarch of our family and I looked up to her for her loyalty. She didn’t have to do it. She could have insisted on a stable life with a permenant address and a home in which to entertain her grand babies. No. She followed him. Until the day she died.

My mom was strong, having fought Rheumatoid Arthritis in the 80’s when the treatment was a steady stream of various steroids that eventually wore her swollen body down and weakened her bones, but never her resolve. My mom never complained about the pain – not even when her joints were so locked up she couldn’t move and required paramedics to remove her from the emergency exit of that bus. Never complained – just kept going.

I know I get a lot from my mom. My stubbornness that masks my resolve. My loyalty to a fault to people and things that don’t deserve it. My refusal to complain about the aches and pains that I’ve inherited and brought on to myself. I am strong. I was left to navigate this life by myself at the tender age of 18. Too young to drink, too old to have the solace of not understanding.

If I make it a couple more months, I will have outlived my mom. It’s something I think about now daily. I know it’s unlikely I’ll meet her fate, but it still lingers – on the sidelines in my mind – when I’m quietly crocheting and thinking of her and how she used this art to keep her mind occupied.

I love you mom. I’ll see you soon, just not real soon.

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