The first memory I have of my mom is vague. It’s barely there, like my finger tips touching a vapor.
It might be in our backyard at Lay Blvd. in downtown Kalamazoo in the grass, or Southside park on the swings when she would have been in her early twenties. I’m not really sure why I can’t pinpoint a first memory of her, but it surely was because she was always there. I have plenty of memory OF her, but the first is a mystery.
She was always this force, rather than a visual memory.
She was stolid and stoic. She ran when I was a preteen, lacing up her Reeboks when I was in middle school and taking off in a sprint. They were white with maybe a green or blue ribbon logo tag. Her running shorts were yellow. My mom has always been this hardened rock of a person.
She had to be.
Her parents were hers, but they weren’t her own. They were everyone else’s.
Her dad was a minister in the church. Her mom was his companion. My mom has said since her dad died eight years ago, “I don’t have to let other people have him anymore”. Her dad was her hero, but even now, she reaches for him and his legacy to be her own, to be in her grasp, and not anyone else’s to fashion.
To know he loved her as his no matter what else was happening in the world. My grandpa, her dad, would be really, really proud of her and what she has become even since he went to Jesus.
My parents listened to Steven Green and Rich Mullins, lived their insulated life, and then had my sister in 1988 when we were vacationing in Door county on Whitefish Bay. This was only a year after my dad lost his mother. His mother was 57. He was 30. Life is beautiful, but never, ever fair.
She, my sister, was born with hydrocephalus in Green Bay, that caused cerebral palsy and epilepsy when we were all on that beach cottage vacation, and it changed absolutely everything in our little family. A looming emergency no one knew about. My brother and I changed to absorb Jaclyn. Or she changed us. Just everything. Everything was different, is different, and will always be. I don’t really remember fully what life was like before my sister, because my brother and I were 4 and 6 years old. But I remember the feeling of a seismic shift, like shoring up against quicksand and sink holes.
I can’t remember a time in the last 33 years that my mom wasn’t hyper aware of all of her children and how they could vanish from her sphere. We were always a mist from her reality that she had to keep absorbing. Because in 1988 her daughter very nearly died. And my mother very nearly died as they cut deep into her to take my sister and she could feel that scalpel blade before the anesthetic took full affect. And that same daughter almost died in 1989. and 1990. and 1991.
And what kind of a woman can confront that pain and sorrow day after day? I know the answer to that, because I have seen her. It is a woman full of faith, and prayer, and love. When her children who didn’t have health problems were lost in their mind with war, misplaced ambition and expectation, and more, she came into our rooms in the dark to pray away evil. She has always been strong in mind and body.
When I pushed and pulled as a teenager and lashed out at 15, everyone else may have seen it as typical, or even unfortunate, but my mom saw it as a daughter needing her mom. We never could see each other in those days. In many ways, I’m only just seeing her for the first time and realizing how much I am like her, stoic and stolid.
My mom has told me since those years that I just needed to know that she and my dad would fight for me the same way she fought for my sister. I cried when she told me that. And since those years she fought for me, she stepped back and let me fight to find my own way and build my own life.
My parents have been fighters since all I can remember. They have always dug in deep and held fast against the raging storm. Stolid and stoic, but not only those. Those are the traits that I think everyone else see in them, and especially in my mom, because it is the armor that protects all of us from all the arrows. She only takes it off when we are safely in the harbor, the haven, of our family home.
Mom has been fighting and giving of herself to her family her entire life, mirroring her own dad’s ministry to be calm and patient peace for those in need, the most generous person I am blessed to know.
My mom went into surgery today.
She was stolid and stoic and ran the race like I remember her when she was in her 30s. Except this time I’m in MY 30s and I value all that my mom is, and who she has made me and how I’ve become her daughter and I am so so proud of her. I now know, with ever clarity, what she is as a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. A fierce and loyal fighter, who taught me to protect and care and stay lashed to my people’s sides forever.
“The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you, He will not forsake you”