Some Sort of Mother’s Day

I have no children, so each mother’s day I consider the many mother’s I have, as I’m sure you have as well.

I was four when my father asked my brother and me whether we would like a woman he had been dating as our Mom. Both my brother and I were overjoyed. It isn’t easy to step into the life of a man with two small children. My stepmother will always be Mom. Three years later, Mom brought our sister into our lives.

My biological mother came into my life when I was 22, 19 years after she left in hopes we would be in better care. With her reintroduction came two new sisters and a niece. In 2001, she moved 930 miles closer and became my friend. I call her Momma.

In all these years I’ve had my grandmother, my aunt, two blessed mothers-in-law and numerous other mother figures who provide guidance and comfort beyond simple friendship.

Each of these remarkable women had and have no obligation to reach out, to settle themselves into their roles in my life. I can’t imagine who I would be without them; I am so thankful.

Perhaps mother’s day isn’t a Hallmark moment. There may be anger, grief, guilt and myriad complex emotions tied to the title of the day. And then there are other mothers, temporary or forever loving figures who, mistakes and all, have fulfilled some motherhood.

And you…you may have no idea how you’ve fulfilled the role of mother in the lives of others.


“Stay Right Except to Pass”

I caught up with some blogs this morning. Shimon Says has an unusual metaphor for measures of success and our involvement in the lives of those who are struggling—highways.

He questions assumptions often made by fellow travelers with What are you thinking?.

I’d like to say I have this figured out; I do not.
—My grandfather was taught to leave the slow lane for those merging onto the freeway or attempting to exit. To him, it would be a courtesy when driving on a multi-lane highway.
—In Oregon and Washington it is illegal to use the fast lane for anything but passing. Signs on the highways read, “Stay right except to pass.” Two-fold, this allows emergency vehicles to reach their destination without risking a fatality themselves, and staying in the right lane allows vehicles to pass on the left as Shimon expressed, which is what we are taught is safe and an assumption for many of right-of-way when on a highway.

Shimon’s observation of societal fast and slow lanes is new to me and apt. I worked in an industry that addressed homelessness and poverty; this topic is dear to my heart. True, I have experienced these for myself while working two jobs and sharing expenses with another individual who also was working.

What if you could help?

Wikimedia Commons: Maryeoriginals

If we are offered a method to assist others that does not require our time—often a rare surplus when we are working a six-figure salary job—many will step up. Consider Ebola and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s and the Bill Gates Foundation’s recent donations that resulted in increased contribution from members of the general public. An avenue, or lane, of involvement opened in people’s minds. Helping became less overwhelming.

To align our actions with our values, consider the following options in case you’re not a multibillionaire:

  • Support a cause by purchasing from its donation solicitation efforts only what you would normally purchase. That is, shop at a themed thrift store. While breast cancer awareness is at a peak, it has become a brand and logo around which corporations sell the pink ribbon logo; I don’t find anything commendable in furthering company sales at the expense of consumers who likely wouldn’t purchase a pink shirt otherwise.
  • Assemble from your own surplus a care package for someone who is moving from a group setting to living on their own. You may think of victims of domestic violence right of; however, there are other worthy recipients. Going back to a life of crime may feel like the only method for a former inmate when they cannot find a job paying more than minimum wage and, when they do find a place to live, the basics of soap, towels, flatware and sheets are more than they can manage. Your donations needn’t be new to be of use.
  • Words of encouragement are inexpensive and carry a value beyond anything money can buy.
    • Thank someone for something they do anyway, even if it is part of their job.
    • Send a postcard to a stranger’s child (postcard so it isn’t creepy) addressed as “the young man in residence, care of the family at [address]”. Alternately, a postcard to an elderly or disabled person would be just as welcome.
  • Drop off unneeded magazines to the office of your local school for use by teachers in collage and other projects.

I hope these ideas spin off into other ways to support community in ways that align your values and actions.

The Found of the Lost

Items found at a riverside.

Last week’s curious collection. ©2014 Sandra R. Davidson

We take the dogs to the riverside not nearly as often as they would like to go. My husband ends up with both leashed dogs tugging him, our 80-pound, dark-ages torturers on four legs, because I have a compulsion to pick up human leavings.

I don gloves and carry trash bags, stooping until my back threatens to seize. I mostly find fishing line, sometimes with hook attached; plastic bottles; sandal or shoe, singular; dirty diapers (I did mention the gloves); and occasionally something worse.

Last week we discovered what two seals had already known; the smelt were running the Columbia River. Our female dog was given permission to eat two smelt. She’ll be denied that crunchy tidbit next smelt run since the two fish reappeared in not-so-recognizable form near the front door the following morning.

Then there are the found of the lost.

Part of a dock that broke from its mooring, which I tugged and it tugged me and my shoulder out of place.

The mess my curiosity gets me into could be worse.

Sedum leaves (not pictured); glue stick; green half-dome of a bobber; oak seeds; glittering tackle bead; purple…uh, pole bell; the green figurine high diving snorkeler to which the twine bound its fate with rather powerful firework; and pretty purple polka dot barrette.

We also know what the locals were using for bait. [shhh….]

Last week…

Last week…

I donated an organ to surgery.

Neither it or I had any reservations; a mutual parting. My gall bladder has been hammering me in the back for about a year and a half, though I didn’t know the culprit until a recent ultrasound.

Parting ways without sorrow, though it increases my sense of “Frankenstein’s Monster” syndrome.

In the meantime, my computer has deserted me as well. This time I lost data, not just settings and a few program preferences. A complete install of every piece of software and hardware—more than once—has left me knocking wood against my head. I hope that’s how one should ‘knock on wood’.

Silence is a Workout

So much I haven’t been saying. A thought surfaces and I push it back under the quagmire with the others. I suppose I can say my metaphorical arms are getting a workout.

As the end of my first marriage stumbled into view, I had quite a collection of baby and parent books, items for a baby’s room, even clothing. Relegated to a small shed at the end of a small carport and packed tightly with a weed-whacker, mower and assorted seasonal necessities, the collection had been dwindling as one or another acquaintances became pregnant.

I had been nineteen. He had been twenty. Shamed from living together by both sides of our families, we married. The love between us is true; it still exists today in a different form.

At nineteen, I knew little about drug paraphernalia and less about drugs, alcohol or even cigarettes. I’m not a simpleton; I had little to no experience.

Ah, but he was vibrant, charming, gentle and loving. The requisite sense of humor was there. He played guitar, as much of my family did and does. There was a sincerity about him—on some levels. And I was nineteen.

Six years later, I picked up all the various pieces of child-wishing and donated them to the local women’s shelter. The end was more present than the present when he called from the middle of the town in which he had spent most of his life and told me he was lost. He gave me what he thought to be his location and I called his mother to pick him up. With me by his side, he had tried in-patient and outpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation; his family had made his brother and him addicts from birth. He had tried, for love; he had failed by biology.

Husband number two, I knew the night I married him I had erred in a ghastly way. He had some wonderful traits, including the required sense of humor, and was suddenly an alcoholic that very night, and then with increasingly nasty undertones. No children would come of this marriage and none did. Purposely.

With the first and second husbands, I could not imagine either of them as a sole parent to a child should something happen to me. It isn’t about wish or want. It’s about the child.

The baby collection turned into collecting babies from friends on occasion. That began to burn in my arms and my heart too severely; friendships dissolved, but one.

Four years later my second marriage ended in an act of violence against me. I packed my husband’s items, loaded them in his car; from his keychain I removed the house and related keys; and from his wallet I extracted the credit card to which I had added his name to my account. I woke him from a hangover and held out his items saying, “I want peace. I can’t have that with you here.”

It was twenty-two more months before he would sign the divorce papers. I wasn’t in a hurry. I wasn’t looking for anyone in my life. I began divorcing life along the way. I still worked, yet I refused friendships. I began to frequent 24-hour grocery stores at one in the morning.

In October 1994 after the divorce was final, I moved to a tiny apartment, the middle unit of a one-story triplex where my front neighbors cut into my electricity and I paid well over a hundred dollars a month for both units, me unawares but suspicious as the amount of the bills was well over what I had paid for the large house from which I had just moved.

In November 1994 I was diagnosed with melanoma, which was successfully excised. If I wasn’t well on my way to being a recluse, that bricked up some paths for me. I still wanted nothing to do with friendships or relationships.

My biological mother’s side of the family—dead young of cancer, including my grandmother (her mother) at age twenty-four. My father was already dead of esophageal cancer. My paternal grandfather had survived what was believed to be job-related leukemia and was my link to melanoma.

No children. Absolutely decisive. In a society that defines immortality and worth by progeny, offspring, what one leaves as a legacy in their own form, I felt meaningless. I began to plan a long path to suicide. I came within minutes of succeeding in 2005.

A few years on, I took a visit to my family in California. It did me good, made me feel I deserved a life of my own. On my return from vacation, my family encouraged me to look for friends with whom I might go fishing or enjoy other outings. At the same time, my adult life time diagnosis of depression magically became re-diagnosed as bipolar disorder. Yeah.

By then I had been corresponding and talking with a man who was moving to a house not too far from me. I broke the news to him as I found out. I didn’t really know what it meant. It felt the same as any other month and year. Another nick in the “no children” resolution I’d made. The last genetic brick in the wall.

I married that man. He has a grown son. He wanted no children, much to my relief. After some time, I secretly and openly cried; if there was ever a man with whom I would wish to have children, he is the man. I would trust him to raise a child without me.

My wall stands.

Last month I took a step toward health and a last step to reinforcing the wall of barrenness: I had the lining of my uterus destroyed. No more periods is the hope, therefore I keep more iron and my adult anemia will improve from a ferritin level of 1 to, oh hope of hopes, 100 (out of 300) or better.

So. I struggle still. It hasn’t been about babies for very many years. It’s about giving back more to this total environment than I take from it. It has always been about that, since I was a child hiding from notice.