Spring – at last!
Even though we are still getting shut down for snow -twice last week- the darkness of winter is receding, finally.
In the years that we have been driving the truck, I have come to treasure the light more than ever. That’s not to say I don’t love the stars of the night, I do. I love to see them. I like to watch how they appear differently from season to season, from one geographic area to another. It’s fun to watch the various planets pass through their different alignments with one another, with the moon.
But it’s not fun to find a place to park a 53-foot trailer in the dark! Nor is it fun to spend 11 hours of a 12-hour work shift in darkness. I’m the day time driver, noon to midnight Pacific time, the equivalent of 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. Eastern time. So when it’s dark at 4:00 in the afternoon local time and we’re on the east coast. . . well, you get the picture.
But the winter has passed. Spaceship Earth is tilting ever nearer the sun and you and I are the ones to reap the benefits.
Ahh, the light. Since ancient times people have cherished, longed for, even worshiped the light. In many parts of Latin America, when a woman gives birth she is said to “dar la luz”, or give the light to the baby she births.
The woman who gave the light to my earthly life turned 84 years old this month. I share this with you because without her guidance this blog never would have come into being – never would have come into the light.
It was my mother who encouraged me to write.
Mom always has been very practical, and good writing skills are practical.The mantra she passed to me – “You must be able to support yourself.”
For the first 15 years of my professional life I was able to stay employed and take care of myself because I knew how to write. For that I am exceedingly grateful. I am grateful to The Universe for the opportunities it provided me to put my talents to useful purpose while providing me with material sustenance.
Also, I am grateful to Mother for nurturing my self- reliance through writing because it was through writing the two of us found a place to connect.
We are very different people. I’m tall. She’s short. She’s practical and pragmatic. I’m artistic and free-spirited. Her spiritual beliefs are staid, traditional, mainstream. I love the path of the seeker.
When I was younger, she relished in helping me think of ideas for my school essays. She’d remind me of my ability to see character traits in my relatives, friends, people in my life. Those insights provided an endless pool of topics for my works.
When I got to college, we wrote political satire together. What a hoot! We’d break down the fields of the presidential hopefuls. I remember her saying of the late Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic Senator from Minnesota, Vice President to Lyndon Johnson and unsuccessful presidential candidate in his own right, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”
She especially loved to get the goods on “Tricky Dick Nixon,” one of her favorite nemeses, though he resigned while I was still in high school (for those of you counting the years on your fingers).
She also saw the political process as a way for every day citizens to be able to make change in the United States. For years, we had a Republican congressman named Roger Zion. They were at odds, constantly. Wikipedia, for whatever it’s worth, had the following to say about the former congressman from Indiana’s eighth district.
“In 1967, Zion called anti-Vietnam (War) protesters ‘traitors,’ and suggested that ‘any of them involved in illegal acts be treated comparably with Frenchmen whose heads were shaved if they were caught collaborating with the Germans in World War II’. ”
I have such vivid memories of my mother gathering our family in the living room while she passionately read aloud her latest letter of outrage to Mr. Zion.
I remember one particular occasion when she was furious! Congress had just voted itself a raise. I still can hear her emphatic line about how hard she and her husband worked to keep their heads above water while Congress took HER
tax money and raised its own salaries! (How dast they!)
Obviously, she not only believed in the utility of the written word, but also in the power of information. She never shied away from digging into any local public policy issue which directly affected her life or the lives of her family.
As a 10-year-old kid, I was learning about something called the city council and its zoning laws. I followed along behind her as she passed the petitions she had either written or helped to write. She petitioned for sidewalks on which her kids could walk to school, and for the construction of the neighborhood public library, which her growing neighborhood had the property tax base to support.
That was how she put her writing skills to work. It was the practical thing to do.
Last year my mother became very ill just before Thanksgiving. The prior February, she had lost the love of her life, my father, her husband of 63 years. His health had been in decline for the last seven years of his life. She, of course, took care of him until his last days.
Finally, the stress caught up with her. She was hospitalized just before Thanksgiving. Afterward, she was sent to a skilled nursing facility until early the following February.
She’s home now, working to gain back the strength she lost, especially in her legs, after all the weeks of being sick in bed.
She’s getting stronger, slowly. But the thing she laments most is that, “I’m not as sharp as I used to be.”
She had Shingles near one of her eyes. She has more difficulty reading, now. So, she takes it easy. She reads her local newspaper, her National Geographic.
I was very relieved and happy when she started using her computer again. She used to love to audit university classes on line. She’s not up to that quite yet, but she is writing and reading a few emails.
“I want to get my mind back to where it used to be,” she tells me.
I tell her to be patient.
“Not my strong suit,” she says.
I tell her that if she won’t be patient with herself that when she dies Spirit will change her from a Methodist to a Buddhist and make her come back and learn patience.
She laughs. I get to tell her this joke over and over again, because she doesn’t remember that I told her that same joke last time we talked.
I want her mind to be back where it used to be,too.
Over the past decade, the years I’ve been driving the truck, we’ve talked a lot about books. I have so much time to listen to audio books or read in the winter when we get shut down for a few days of bad weather. I miss talking like that.
Of course, we also talked about politics and world affairs. Mom could always detect spin before the words were out of the politician’s, or corporate flak’s mouth, but not now. I miss talking like that, too.
I knew I could I always count on her to help me sniff out a rat. But that’s why she raised me to be self reliant, someday she’d be gone and it would be up to me to do my own rat sniffing.
Now, there’s a new kind of conversation. Mom is just happy to be alive. She finds joy now in recognizing the good in people and in the world. It’s refreshing. So even after all this time, the practical mom and the free-spirited-daughter connect. After all these years, she’s still giving me stuff to write about.
Thanks, Mom, and happy spring. Enjoy the light. Remember to be PATIENT!