she was incessant. every morning she greeted me with the words, “good morning sunshine.” rain, sleet, snow or ice – none would dampen her good-morning-spirit. a new day, a new beginning, another chance.
my parents weren’t complicated people. they grew up with great-depression-survival parents. they were married and almost immediately separated by the second world war, by my dad’s missing-in-action status, by his time as a prisoner-of-war and, thus, they navigated the loss of their first daughter on two continents, my mom without knowledge of my dad’s whereabouts. they processed-without-processing the end of the war and my dad’s escape and return home to struggle through post-war times. they had two more children, another girl and a boy and began to raise a family on long island in a cape cod house with a chainlink fence and a dachshund. after i was born they moved to the house i grew up in, the only house i remember without looking at old photographs. we had a single driveway with a grass strip in the middle. some neighbors had solid concrete or asphalt driveways, no grass strip, and even as a child, i suspected this meant something. they were thrifty and conserving.
my parents weren’t hip. through the rebellious 60s and mod 70s they raised me, older than most of my friends’ parents by at least a decade or more. i listened to jim nabors and doris day and robert goulet in the house, herb alpert and the tijuana brass and frank sinatra on the stereo and the old wgsn on the radio on top of the refrigerator, while friends were hearing their moms sing to carole king and simon and garfunkel crooned in their kitchens, the mamas and the papas and herman’s hermits in the family rooms. my dad would whistle for hours; hearing anyone whistling now feels like a hug from him.
my parents weren’t frivolous. my dad would turn boxes inside out to repurpose them. my mom would assign him tasks first in in his basement workshop and, later, his garage workshop, giving him something to focus on. he was always rube-goldberg-ing everything; he could make or fix anything. they didn’t splurge on stuff, well, until they discovered ikea. after years and years and years of exclusive use, the aluminum colander they gave to me (and after a couple more decades and the loss of a foot, i finally retired) is likely 70 years old.
my parents weren’t problem-obsessive. my mom would do laundry, especially later in life. i think it centered her. the simple task of cleaning a garment or bath towel and putting it away felt grounding; i have learned this from her and you will find me scouring the house for laundry items in times of stress. they were reasonable and rational; nothing needed be too complex.
but they were loving and encouraging and accepting. i could tease or cajole my dad into doing almost anything. and, when my dad’s reaction to a circumstance was more impatient, my mom would listen, listen, listen. she would admonish him, “Erling!” she’d hammer.
simple. no fancy titles. no wildly exotic trips. no fancy foods. only one fancy car to try-on-for-size. no fancy clothes or shoes. simple furnishings, treasured mementos.
simple. no emmys, oscars, grammys. no nobel peace prize. hardworking and uncomplaining. a lot of volunteering. a jewelry store failure in early days of big box stores. early retirement and a move-down-I95 south. self-admonishments to do-the-photo-albums and clean-out-the-file-cabinets.
simple. a dedication to handyman magazine, national geographic, jigsaw puzzles, crytoquotes and crosswords. tomato plants and hosta. forsythia and four-o-clocks that ran along the whole side of the house. succulents and bougainvillea. harlequin romance novels and old doris day/rock hudson movies. bird-watching and klondike bars. feeding their family. entertaining their friends.
simple. times around the table coffee-sitting. long conversations on the couch. egg mc-arnsons or waffles and ice cream on sunday mornings. time on the stoop and in the lanai, just talking. time. spending time.
she was incessant. her joy at the day, her exuberance, her kindness, her piercing eyes, her absolute, uncompromised, unconditional love.
i woke today thinking about this day five years ago today, when i was not physically there to hold her hand as she passed from this life to another plane. we were on the way, driving there, on an interstate when we found out. in el paso, illinois. we pulled off and found a park not far from the highway. we walked and walked and walked, trying to process. i have no doubt that she knew i was right there with her, always, and how much i love her.
life will never be the same without my sweet momma on this earth. ever. i can only hope that in some way, as a new day dawns and i think to myself, “good morning sunshine,” that i will be somewhat like her. somewhat as incessant.