Sunday, May 10, 2015

Letter to My Mother on Mother's Day

Hey, Mom --

A lot is going on here and I miss you terribly in the turmoil of it all.  I've moved back to Missoula and Mother's Day is sweet with the mountains still green, the black-eyed Susans on the slopes and the smell of lilacs light in the early morning air.  I haven't seen this Montana in 30 years -- the hills are brown when I come in August and wild flowers out only in places like Glacier.
I've been here six months, staying with Jim, if you can believe it.  We haven't fought once, which is even more unbelievable.  He's been unfailingly kind, if a little hyper, and I've done my best to be cheerful and helpful or to hide when my mood turns south.

Almost the whole family is here for Mother's Day -- Lisa is in Oregon but they're moving back to Kalispell this summer and then the circle will be pretty much complete.  Little Sophie is in third grade and Anna -- did you meet Anna? -- is a very shy pre-schooler.  Michael and Leeanne moved to Spokane and all the Spokane kids came over to see Kimmie's play.  Kim tells me that every time she goes on stage she channels you.  I thought you'd like that.

I'm moving into a tiny cottage in about six weeks and oh, I wish you were here to supervise!  Will I find just the right pink for the kitchen and lavender for the living room without you?  I've bought a couch, Mom -- my first real one that Daisy will refuse to let me nap on.  I'll be gathering my stuff from the four corners and will have your/my bedroom furniture back.  You'd like this little house: it's very 30s, and so much of what I've inherited covers that period.  I want to mount your toy stove in the kitchen and I will be putting up photos of you and Dad over the fireplace in the living room.  All my dour great- aunts and uncles, the entire 23 of them!  You'd enjoy this move, Mom.  I think of you every time I buy something.  And you'd laugh at my mania to re-collect things from my childhood that got broken or went astray in the moves.  I actually bought a piece of carnival glass although the bowl you had was much bigger and more useful.  I'm going to see if I can get my part of the Azalea china Grandma Kuffel had which a friend and I have collected.  It would look swell in the kitchen.  I'll have to put a table cloth on the table to use the Spode.

You can see I'm planning dinner parties right and left.  That's your presence in me as well.

Dad is getting frail but is in good spirits.  Last night was the annual Western Montana Retired Officers' Club dinner.  Only five World War II vets left and I cried when they gathered to have their picture taken.  It was the day after VE Day and Dad was telling us about free drinks at the Officer's Club in San Francisco.  Jim found it hard to believe how even more ecstatic VJ Day was, how relieved you and Dad were that the Homeland Invasion was off.  Jim had never heard to story of you and Dad renting a room from the colonel and the colonel's wife expectation that you would clean for her.  It explained a lot to him about your dislike of the military, although you always seemed to enjoy the perks a great deal.

I was Dad's date and Jim and Brenda came as well. 
Seeing the men of Dad's age barely able to stand and hold a limp salute was a solemn sadness to us -- my eyes are pricking as I write this -- but he was terribly glad to be there, with us, and to see one or two of your remaining friends who I made sure came over and sat with him for a few minutes. 
All three of us pitched in to be ears, eyes and stability for him.  He's already set the date for next year.

He misses you, Mom.

Daisy's showing her age, too.  She'll be 14 this summer, can you believe it?  She's still active although she can't jump the way she could a year ago.  I like it that she is still at a learning curve at her age.  She has learned who Auntie Brenda and Uncle Jimmie is (she outright adores Jim!), and I taught her to stay in the unfenced back yard.  I don't know how I did that but I don't know how I taught her anything.  She's smart on her own.

You'd had laughed to see her facing down two deer one evening.  She kept advancing, slowly, barking, while one of the deer pawed the ground like a bull.  Finally the deer decided the noise was too much and ran off.  We call her the Deer Stalker and Brenda's plants are thriving with absence of ruminants invading the lilies.

Next spring I'll find a black bitch to join her.  The cottage has much more light than the Bat Cave had and I'll be able to read that little monkey face's mischief.  No dog can replace Daisy but I do love a black Lab.

It felt funny being Dad's date, Mom.  I put on an underwire bra, Spanx and make-up, but I'm ashamed of the weight.  I hope you would be proud of me despite the weight gain, and I hope you would have been proud of us last night.  I made sure it was OK for Jimmie to get in on the photograph of all the Vietnam vets -- it's the 50-year anniversary of the start of that war -- even though it was an officer's club meeting.  He felt chagrined that I did it but Brenda walked him over.  We're as proud of his sergeant's stripes as we are of Dad's bird and I'm glad we forced him into it. 

I have a new psychiatrist and she changed my meds up.  It's a huge help.

That's about it, Mom.  I want you to know how much you're on my mind and how much you would love this tender time of year and the 16 people flowing in and out of Jim's house this weekend.  I know you'd be buried in paint chips and helping Kimmie plan this doily hanging we have in mind.  Daisy misses your pocket full of cookies.

Oh -- I bought a car, Mom!  And a washer and dryer.

I'm trying to grow up.


Hilary said...

Hi Frances,

This letter brought tears to my eyes. I liked the picture of you with your dad and the other men. You looked fine to me. I think it would be nice if we had telephones that reached to heaven. I don't think that it would be a good idea to be able to access them at all times but on special days like Mother's Day or Valentine's Day we could call for a few minutes. It would be nice to be able to say, "I'm doing well," and to hear that our loved ones are having an awesome time up there! I wrote a nice letter to my dad in heaven a few years ago. Now I have to write my husband and my mom!

I'm so glad that the move into your new home is just six weeks away. Do you think you will ever miss the bat cave? I guess every place has an upside and a downside. But your new house sounds great. Congrats on the car and the washer and the dryer. I've retired from driving and the washer-dryer in my apartment is one of those combination things and it takes hours to do one load so I go to the laundry room--another perk, Frances, you won't have to worry about people complaining about dog hair in the washer!

Liesl said...

Oh, this made me cry! You sound as if you are doing well and I have no doubt that your mother would be proud of you. It was also so good to see you post a picture and that, too, made it seems as if you were doing well- as well as we can. Congratulations on the purchases. Looking forward to hearing about the new house!
Please keep writing when you can.

Anonymous said...

So absolutely real and lovely, without any pretenses.

Your honesty brings tears to my eyes.

Please don't ever stop writing.

Who cares if you gained weight. It's the heart that matters.

The Future Vehicle said...

hy, i like your letter

Vickie said...

How has your summer been going?

Vickie said...

I have been wondering how you are doing?

rental mobil bogor said...

beautiful letter :)

Jen said...

I just found you at my local book store and went to seek you out on social media. It's like you are telling my own story, down to the regaining of the weight. Oh the shame!!! No one could understand unless they've been there. I duck people who knew me as skinnier(for god knows I was never small) for fear of the judgement that surely follows. Keep your head up and thank you for telling our stories. Thank you for being our voice! -Jenny

Lee Charles Kelley said...

Ahhh, Montana. I have a few but choice memories of driving from Provo to Medicine Hat, Alberta, taking a college girl I knew back to her father's farm. I had a '56 Chevy, and it broke down sometime after midnight in the rain, somewhere near the border. A black night on a mountain road.

My friend Mark Stabler -- both Djs -- traveled through in August of 1972, scoping out the possibility of moving north if we decided to drop out of school (or graduate) and got drafted to go to Vietnam. We were in a precarious state. My draft number was 6, Mark's was 12.

We had Sweet Baby James playing on the 9-track.

Mark was smitten with a girl from Columbia Falls, so we stopped there one morning on our way north, heading for Calgary as a possible landing point if our asses got owned by the Army. Her name was Debbie (I think), and Mark had met her while doing a touring production of some play in Ricks, Idaho during the spring semester and couldn't get his mind off her.

She was a very sweet girl. Very beautiful. I ran into her on campus when fall semester rolled around. We dated briefly but she was terribly beautiful and terribly shy. Plus Mark hated my guts for going out with her.

Funny story, some friends of mine -- musicians -- used to get free meals by telling girls that for a spaghetti dinner, they're write a song about them and sing it for them afterwards. They did this quite a few times, but there was one girl that they kept seeing over and over again. Her name was Naomi, so they retired from the spaghetti racket, but kept the song in their live act: "Naomi Won't You Tell Me How to Win Your Love.'

Whenever they introduced the song, they would tell the story about the spaghetti dinners, and how they kept coming back to hang out with Naomi. they felt bad because they used the same tune for every dinner, and they'd kind of become pals with her. So one night, they confessed,

"We didn't really write that song about you," they told her.

She said, "Oh, that's okay. My name's not really Naomi..."

So one day, a few years after Mark and I had traveled through Montana on our way to possible draft-dodger status. I'm hanging out on campus with my musician pal Dennis, and we both see a girl we knew, who's now married and very pregnant. And we both go over to say hello to her.

We had a nice, but brief conversation; but she and her husband had to get to church. Then as she walked away, Dennis asked, "How do you know Debby?"

I told him, then asked him how HE knew her.

He said, "That's Naomi!"

Anyway, bless you Frances, wherever you are. But Kalispell's a nice place to be (in lieu of Brooklyn Heights, of course).

Maybe you'll run into my old pal David Letterman and his dogs...

FR Conversions said...

Beautiful Letter...

Anne M. said...

Thinking of you and hoping you and Daisy are well.