As the anniversary of my mother’s death draws near, I find myself remembering her more and more. Mom was too funny and too interested in the world to spend too much time dwelling on her last few weeks. Instead, I am trying to paint a picture of who my mom was, using my words instead of my paints.
Whenever I remember my mom, I always think of her intelligence and her humor. There was not a time in her life that Mom wasn’t studying something. When I was in Junior High, she was fascinated by astrology and learned to cast horoscopes. I remember she did mine and I wish I would have looked for a copy of that forecast when, 40 years later, we were moving her out of her house and into a Senior Living apartment. The only thing I remember about the horoscope she wrote for me was that I was going to come into a lot of money through no effort of my own. I’m still waiting for that to happen.
Mom also studied witchcraft during that same period. I don’t have very clear memories of that line of inquiry, but I do remember one facet of it; the Ouija board. My mother and I could sit down with that board and make it sing. The clearest prediction from that bit of playing with forces we shouldn’t have messed with, was when I asked who I was going to marry: the indicator that we had our hands resting on raced to the letters “K” and “M.” We made a lot of jokes that day trying to think of names that could possibly be made up of those initials. Years later, after I had married Kelly McGuire, my mom and I recalled that session with the hair on the back of both of our necks rising.
When Mom married her ultra-conservative second husband, her interests became a little more mainstream. She took up quilting in the 70’s when she started making quilts for the grandbabies that were coming regularly. For a while, she and I worked together on quilted wall art. I would design and she would quilt. I don’t know if my daughters remember this, but we spent a lot of time loading my babies up in her Cadillac and driving all over Kansas to visit different quilt shops to find the most unique fabric offered at that time When she had completed quilts for all of us, and she had filled her large sewing room with fabric, it was time to move to another area of interest.
As I remember it, her next subject of study was genealogy. Mom was fascinated by it. Before she was done, Mom had multiple thick notebooks filled with the results of her painstaking research, (much of which was done before the internet offered as many research tools as it does now.) I always felt bad that none of her children shared her fascination with genealogy. There were so many times my eyes would glaze over as she excitedly told me about finding another long-lost family member.
I can’t write about Mom’s interests without mentioning her fascination with words and reading. When she wasn’t working, or taking care of her family, Mom was reading. I don’t think she ever found a book she wouldn’t read. She passed this love of the written word to her children, and I think we are all still fascinated with words.
As anyone who knew my mother would tell you, Mom also loved dirty words. People who didn’t know her are shocked when I tell them I never used a dirty word I hadn’t heard my mother use. They are especially fascinated when I tell them there was one word that Mom used that I refuse to use. Since I won’t use that word, you’ll have to guess which word that is.
Not only did Mom love using dirty words, she was always willing to discuss them. One of my clearest memories of my teenage years was a discussion my mother, my brother, and I had at the dinner table one evening. We were sitting around the big oak table in our dining room and my brother did something that irritated me; I let fly an indignant “You f..k!” He politely answered, why, yes he did. As he intended, that only made me angrier. Instead of jumping on us for our vocabulary, Mom then lead us into a discussion of the proper grammatical usage of the word “f..k.” I remember clearly wondering, even at the time, how many other families were having a similar discussion around their dinner table in suburbia.
As she got older and frailer, Mom’s world got smaller and smaller. She left her home less frequently and spent a lot of her time in bed. However, all the way until the very end, Mom always had a book or two that she was reading, and she was always eager to talk about what she was reading.
And, if you pissed her off, she was sure to tell you what she thought of you in language that any sailor would be comfortable with. I miss you Mom.