I remember the first time I was told, “Happy Mother’s Day.” I was in my late 20’s, a happy career girl in Chicago. When the store clerk at Marshall Field’s wished me a Happy Mother’s Day, I was at first shocked and then a bit angry. How dare they assume I’m old enough to be a mother!
Then later, because I worked for a very wonderful and outrageous woman, I made a very special Mother’s Day card for her. My boss was beautiful and smart, my mentor, my friend, my work mother and I admired her greatly. I wanted her, in some ways, to have been my mother. And I think my own mother was somewhat jealous of her daughter’s boss. I talked about the boss constantly when I was home. One holiday I even bought my mother a silk blouse. My work boss had lots of silk blouses. My Mother had no silk blouses; she was a polyester and cotton Depression baby through-and-through.
On Mother’s Days, I was a good daughter. Mom, Marion Kaub Taylor, loved our phone calls wishing her the best. Admittedly, my mother was not my family hero; my father was. His was the interesting life, the interaction with new people, they guy with the great sense humor. My Mom was just a Mom. She cooked and cleaned for us, but to me her life was not particularly exciting. Oh yes, she sometimes talked about when she worked for a railroad tie company, but that was then. She stayed home and waited on all of us when I knew her. She did have one unusual quirk. Her birthday was December 25. Try as we might, we couldn’t celebrate her as much as ourselves on that date.
So life goes on. I am an adult. On one visit home, my mother tells me that she had gotten a license to fly an airplane. I was stunned. My father was the private pilot in our family. Now my stay-at-home mother got a pilot’s license too! The reason, she told us, was that Dad had gotten his license several years earlier and loved flying. Mom figured if she didn’t fly with him, someone else would. And that flying with Dad peaked her interest. She decided to take lessons and yes, eventually, earned her pilot’s license. She told us, confidentially, that she thought our father was not particularly happy at that turn of events. HE had been THE pilot in the extended family as if that were big deal. But now quiet Marion had gotten a license, too.
And life goes on again. My father becomes ill with heart problems and at age 72 dies suddenly. I figured my mother would be devastated. After all, my father was so handsome and some much fun. Mom was very sad, initially, but then she told me that though she particularly missed Dad on Saturday nights, the rest of the time she was busy….running his business. My mother running Dad’s business! And not only that, she did well at it for several years while going with me on a couple vacations, one to New York City and another to Squam Lake in New Hampshire. In her other spare time, she golfed with friends, read books and in all enjoyed her single life.
Life went on again and Mom called and told me she had been losing weight and tests had revealed she had liver cancer. I was devastated. She wasn’t. Mom took the next six months to get together personal items to give to friends and family. She welcomed us home for holidays — once coming to the door with Christmas lights strung like a gaudy necklace. As time went on, she bent over the stove, struggling to cook us breakfast as she had done so many times in the past, but we didn’t interfere. That breakfast was important to her.
Gradually, Mom’s health got even worse. She didn’t want to eat much and the Hospice people sent a woman to look after her and her home three times week. Mom told us how great it was to have someone handling her ever more prominent bones, yet calling her “Sweetie”.
Mom died peacefully and bravely at age 84. I wish every day I were more like her.