My mother’s birthday. Oh, how busy I would have been today if she were still here! Mother had a deep need for people she loved to celebrate her on her actual birthday. And we always obliged, no matter what we wanted, needed, planned to do on January 5 of each year. That little dynamo of a woman adored being adored. And we had no trouble adoring her.
My husband just came over to kiss me goodbye before he left for work, and his eyes fell on the first words on this page. His comment, “Your mother’s birthday—where’s the bread?” made me laugh. We could cook ourselves into oblivion on Thanksgiving as Mother presided over the festivities—huge turkey and turkey breast, mounds of cornbread dressing, spinach madeleine, sweet potato “bomb,” cranberry sauce, “pink salad,” and various pies strewn from counter to buffet to table, all the special dishes she liked to have on holidays. Those of us who cooked and tried to clean up as we went along were almost too exhausted to care much about eating when it was finally ready. But eventually the huge meal came together at last. Year after year, we would all stand around the dining room table and hold hands while my husband Randy thanked God for our family and asked Him to bless the food. When he finished the blessing, everyone would echo his “Amen.” And the first comment following that “Amen,” sometimes before we even sat down, would be from Mother——“Melinda, where’s the bread?”
Mother and Daddy were our loves. When Daddy died on April 4, 1995, our original family circle of five broke for the first time, a circle we had desperately tried to protect through 19 years of heart attacks and heart surgeries. We were stunned, almost embarrassingly inconsolable. Even though we certainly knew our family as a complete circle was on borrowed time, the severing of earthly ties to our precious daddy made our weeping on the outside a classic understatement, a mockery almost, to the vast flood of tears ravaging our hearts. The remaining four of us were devastated, especially our mother, who fell quickly into a profound, expected, and thankfully brief depression. Daddy had worshipped Mother–taken care of her, pampered her, protected her, substituted for her in some ways. Mother was lost without him. I was teaching high school at the time but moved in with her across town for two months, leaving her only for the hours I was required to be at school, while my husband, working a difficult and exacting job of his own, took care of our home and family—a daughter in college, a daughter finishing the final two months of her senior year in high school, and a son in middle school. It was not easy, but it was redemptive. We all learned lessons, sometimes without even realizing it, and one of those took hold with me. Redemption is never easy. It is always and only achieved by walking the difficult path, the inconvenient path, the rock-strewn path, with heartache after heartache along the way. Mother knew redemption well with her children, knew each of our weaknesses and faults, could turn on us, bless us out, pinch a nerve in our necks, or just give us “the look.” She might remind us of our misdeeds from time to time, might discuss our patterns of behavior with other family members if she was concerned we were headed for wrong choices or pain-producing consequences, but we always knew we were redeemed and restored in her heart. She loved us fiercely in spite of our flaws—or maybe because of them. A mother’s love. We understood that power of love and redemption and loved her back.
For today—January 5, 2016, the Twelfth Day of Christmas, the season that made her so happy—I want to say Happy Birthday, dear Mother. I miss you so.