Mom passed on the 21st of last month. She was 79. My father passed in 2012, so technically my four brothers and I are now orphans. The five of us are all grown men. Most with adult children; hardly the images of orphans. It may seem strange make a point of losing both parents in this fashion, but I think it speaks to this sort of life moment. It is the normal course of most lives to outlive one’s parents. But regardless of how you might imagine what it will be like, the reality still brings its own nuance.
A city girl born and raised, mom moved to a rural area with my father and once their brood grew too large for their little village house we moved out to the farm. Learning to live on a farm with a houseful of children was for her an education in real time.
Both my mother’s parents had grown up on farms. My mother had family still living on farms where she could visit while she was growing up. But I have vivid memories of learning significant details of farm life while she too was learning them for the first time. This was not quite the narrative of the late 60s sitcom ‘Green Acres’, but there were occasional moments where similarities for mom were too close to have the humor intended.
Mom had a wonderful singing voice and could use it to great effect. She sang in the diocesan choir for many years. I missed out when musical aptitude genes were distributed; can’t carry a tune in a bucket (some might even suggest a barrel insufficient…). This gift of great voice was especially memorable for those very sentimental moments where even speaking was difficult. She could still sing her heart out with tears in her eyes.
She could cook. Not like some high end restaurant chef, but she had a knack and very capably fed the voracious appetites of our household. Her blackberry cobbler was fantastic. It took no fussing to find volunteers to head down by the pasture to pick blackberries if a cobbler was on offer.
She loved to read. Her command of grammar, spelling, vocabulary, penmanship, and proper English was superb. For a country boy these talents and attributes didn’t seem to offer obvious merit early on. But in time I did learn to appreciate the values they brought.
At the top I mentioned my four brothers. I also had two sisters. One sister died in infancy, and the other was killed in a car accident. These may not be the tragedies suffered by some among us, but they were the sort of difficulties that allowed the rest of us to witness Mom’s handling of the pain and sorrow. These are among the lessons in life learned where no amount of tuition can substitute.
For this Father’s Day of 2016 I am grateful for my own children. A son and a son-in-law are also celebrating this Father’s Day, so the generations of our family march along. Mom would be pleased.