For my mother…
When I was younger, and too young to be aware that times were tough, my mother used what scraps we had in the fridge to prepare our supper. We were living from cheque to cheque back then and were less than two days from payday so Mom did whatever she could with whatever was available. That particular night she took advantage of a surplus that was present in the fridge and made eggs, bacon and toast for supper. Beggars shouldn’t be choosers and mom did whatever she could to make sure there was something on our plate every night. Yet one of her three boys, the often defiant, middle child, refused to eat the meal presented that night. He ignorantly crossed his arms and said that he wasn’t going to eat breakfast for supper. She had made the efforts to make sure the boys had full tummies, even if that meant her own was going without, and this was the thanks she would get. A red-faced brat sitting at the table with his arms crossed, unwilling to eat as if he were some political activist on a hunger strike. The young man’s motives were not that genuine, not even close, and he went to bed that night without eating as he was defiant right to the very end of the day.
Did it matter that my mother worked long hours as a nurse at the hospital’s blood labs? Nope, because I was unaware of the hard work that was done to put that food on the table. Dad’s job kept him out on the road, so it was up to mom to not only work long hours but deal with three growing boys who were to say the least were not easy to handle. The middle child, the same little snot that refused to eat breakfast for dinner, he was an even bigger pain in mom’s ass and that was putting it mildly.
This kid would often get into fights, and while he never started all of them, he had a knack for ending them. He wasn’t a bully but was more of an anti-bully. Despite his reasons for dropping the gloves, the constant violence still got him suspended quite often and his anger issues even led to a nine month stay at a government run group home. When he went into high school, one of his English teachers rudely told him that not only would he never graduate from this school, but he would spend that majority of his life in prison. That’s a pretty harsh thing to tell a fourteen-year-old, right?
Yet that same year, things turned around. The middle boy met someone who felt differently about his future and that confidence was contagious. D’s slowly turned into C’s, then into B’s, and even A’s by the time he graduated, which did happen contrary to what that other teacher foretold. The middle child to this day has also never spent a single day in prison. Not only did this middle kid graduate on the honor roll, but he was also accepted to a pretty kick ass University a short time later and he moved out of the house, left the province, and never came back.
He spent almost a decade in a province that was more than 2000km away, then lived overseas in South Korea for a short time after graduating with a BA in English language and literature. When he finally returned home more than two decade later, he came back with a wife and two sons of his own. He returned with an appreciation for the past, as he was now walking a mile in his parent’s shoes. His sons were not as challenging as he was, but they had their own issues that were just as difficult and made times trying for him as well but like his mother before him, he worked hard to see through them.
Mom and that middle child still clashed on occasion, over many different issues and subjects, but most of the time they managed to smooth things over in the long run. There are no more clashes now, as mom was laid to rest over five years ago after suffering a stroke while in surgery to repair a fractured hip. She never fully recovered and parted from this mortal coil in late October of 2016. We buried her with my grandmother, who passed away at the exact same age as her daughter at 63. I was five when my grandma passed away, and forty-one when mother died at the same age.
Over thirty-five years later, I still remember that day when Mom tried to serve breakfast for supper as if it were yesterday. I don’t know why I refused to eat it, or why I was so pig headed that day. I was being a stubborn fool, but that appeared to be my specialty at the time, and as usual that defiance drove my mother up the wall. A lot has changed since my mom had passed, as less than three years later I welcomed my first daughter into the world. I see a lot of my mom in her, as well as a lot of myself. There are times when she’s stubborn and refuses to eat what she’s served. Having experience from both sides of the issue now, I don’t give her the reaction she’s looking for and use other means to defuse the situation. I wish my mom could have met her, as I think the two of them would have liked each other very much.
I’ve changed quite a bit over the last few decades, even did a little growing up, and my opinions on dinner etiquette have evolved as well. Every year on April 9th, which my mom’s birthday, I make breakfast for supper. It’s my way of remembering everything about her, both good and bad days. A penance for being such a pain in her ass all those years ago, and an admission that it was wrong of me to be such a stubborn brat. It’s something I plan to keep doing every year for as many years as I have left. A small reminder of what an arse I was and try not to be moving forward. That’s one thing I learned from my mother, which was that will to keep moving forward and make the best of things.
Rather than hide from the ghosts that haunt me I prefer to confront them, learn from them, and use them to be a better man and father to my kids. I miss her, but I often see and think of her whenever I look into her new granddaughter’s eyes.
She’ll also never be forgotten, as long as we remember.
What a beautiful way to memorialize your mother’s love and sacrifices for you!