March and I aren’t on the best terms. I’ve kinda had it with how the month teases about Spring yet tastes like Winter. How it stirs hope, but historically has kicked my family in the gut.
This soured relationship started six years ago when March threw a duster of a curve ball with My Guy’s medical emergency and flirtation with death. Fast forward to 2020 … I had just posted on FB that we had hit the 5 year mark from that family crisis … reflecting on the remarkable healing and recovery that My Guy had been graced with.
Within hours of that post a whole new March Crisis unfolded. Mom fell and broke her hip on the 8th and then, passed from this world on the 20th … the first day of Spring. Her attendants at the hospice house remarked more than once how she had lingered so long, but Mom always hated Winter. I think holding out until the calendar clearly had the season of gloom in her review mirror was her way of saying, “It’s all good. Don’t get swallowed up with sorrow because I’m about to begin a whole new life in Christ.”
On top of it all was … of course … COVID. I found myself in such an eerie world those first days of Mom’s fall and transfer to hospice care. I spent much of my time with her at that facility in the city where every day more businesses closed … rules about where you could and couldn’t go changed by the minute … strangers more strange than ever … everyone cautious … suspicious even.
I remember walking through one of more desirable and historic neighborhoods of the downtown area to a popular grocery with an in-store deli. It was strange walking down the streets … people deliberately moving to the opposite sidewalk or making an abrupt detour down a side path. Masks weren’t part of the scene yet, but there were no nods and definitely no eye contact. Few smiles … even those coated in caution.
The store bustled as people stocked up … uncertain what to expect. But even here …an obvious neighborhood hangout … warmed by the smells of homemade leek soup and generous slices of sausage and mushroom pizza … there was not rudeness exactly … but a feeling of distance … of people retreating to themselves … every stranger a possible harbinger of disease … maybe even death.
It was a time where bonds with other humans were tenuous … especially with strangers … everyone afraid of sickness and dying … but for my mom death was already eminent.
I look back … 365+ days later … and I reflect further. I suppose there are lessons to drum up … wisdom to expound upon … both from the loss of my last parent … and from a world radically shifted in the matter of weeks. Lessons for sure, but at the moment only a few simple things stand out to me.
First, it didn’t occur to me until today that March is also Women’s History month.
As I’ve written about and reflected on Mom’s life in depth the last year, I’ve contemplated her and the other women like her, who have thoroughly shaped my thinking and my soul.
None of them are likely to end up in the women’s history books or celebrated in headlines during History Month … none of them have the power of today’s women politicians and celebrities (I don’t want to get start down a rabbit hole … but little bugs the snot out of me more … this is one of Mom’s sayings … than front page headlines that tout what celebrities are saying about major issues … Why?😞 If you want a truly thoughtful response, ask my grandma.)
Sorry … back to my point.
The journey of this year has brought me back to the remarkable strength of the rural women around whom I was raised … woman who hauled butt on farm tractors and semi-trucks pulling trailers … who helped bring in the harvest while still fixing meals for hired crews and washing combine grime out of their Wranglers … who sorted out spuds caked in dirt, helping to ensure that the best ones would make it to the middle man and on to the grocery store.
Women who rose with dawn to squeeze milk out of the udders of grumpy cows … who fed their families for a whole year from gardens that they had planted, weeded, harvested, and preserved with their own blistered hands.
Women who filled the bellies of the hoards gathered at town picnics and weddings and funerals and anniversaries and big birthdays and … well … and for gathering that would be better with food.
Women who didn’t worry about who was “bringing home the bacon” because they knew that their fella might bring it home, but he sure couldn’t cook it up like she could.
Women who might gossip about a neighbor but would have that same neighbor’s back in a heartbeat. “They might be a piece of work,” was said of town trouble-makers, “but they’re OUR piece of work.”
Women who ran the local “five and dime”, built houses alongside the guys, played softball, worked at the bank, could throw a bowling ball with precision, chugged a beer with the best of them, liked her wine too, and enjoyed being the star of the local 4th of July production.
Women who enjoyed the guilty pleasures of hot-buttered rums, soap operas, and Harlequin romances. (If you were born after 1980, insert Starbucks coffee, Fire Fly Lane on Netflix, and Hallmark movies.) … who might let a swear word (or 30) fly, but loved her hymns and knew how to ask forgiveness.
Women who kept the books on the farm or for her husband’s mechanic shop while stretching budgets thinner than one-ply toilet paper when the price of wheat fell to nightmarishly small numbers.
Women who didn’t worry a flip about the color or a person’s skin … anyone was welcome at her table … you just better offer to help with the dishes.
Women who would eventually and reluctantly learn the ways of smart phones, Facebook pages, and social media … or not … but didn’t need them anyway in order to hunt down their kids in a millisecond if they caught wind of said kids sassing a teacher or bullying another kid or if the kid was skipping out on chores.
Women who have never owned a little black dress, but made a pair of snug Levi’s and oversized plaid shirt look sexy.
Women who looked in the mirror and didn’t always like the size of her body … but others looked at her and saw nothing but the size of her heart … a heart we all loved.
Women who fought off raccoons and coyotes from preying on pets … and could take down a derelict with a stare for daring to come too close to one of her own. Who drove school busses full of sugar-jacked kids and yet managed to deliver them safely home every single day … even when mountain high drifts erased the view of the road and made for a treacherous ride.
Women who didn’t care if you were her flesh and blood … if you needed a roof over your head and a meal in your stomach … especially if you were a confused kid … you were gonna find it … and maybe a hug or two as well … at her house. She’d do anything for you except stay in a room with a spider.
I don’t think my role models stand up to the definition of a modern woman … not the 2021 versions I see on newspaper pages and TV shows of late … or the political versions out there …
But I’ll take them … my role models, that is … and I’ll celebrate Women’s Month and mourn my Mom with them. Put me in a crisis and let me choose my tribe. First pick is my Mom … one of the spiciest of them all. Then fill the rest of the spots with country-fried women as described above. Courageous. Stubborn. Kind. Ornery. Hardworking. I seriously think if you want women to run the nations, you need to come where I live and glean from the best. Stuff WILL get done.
The other profound thought I’ve had about Mom this year is how much she would have liked our puppy.
There are a lot of things I miss about Mom but I really wish I could watch her face as we tell stories about our pup pouting in the crate while on timeout for impersonating a shark. Or about her persistent attempts to get the cat to play chase. I picture smuggling the dog into Mom’s room for just a quick pet … a chance to let Tillie lick her hand while Mom’s eyes light up from the love of a sweet, innocent creature.
It has been a year, alright.
A hard one of missing Mom and of watching these other beautiful women who are made of the same stuff she was … watching them struggle with aloneness … with being shut away from all they love most in attempts to give them a few more days on earth … of watching them wither under a sense of usefulness.
Oh March … there you go, making me all melancholy again …
Hurry up April.
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