It is hard to believe that this is my second year of being “motherless”. Because I had a mother for 77 years it is rather strange NOT to have one. Most people lose their mothers at an earlier age. Most people mourn their mother’s passing. But many were so old, tattered, gray, and wrinkled by the end that there was little left. They may have been ill for years or incapacitated. Not mine, though. She was vital until she was 100. And beautiful, she was truly lovely right until the end.
The brightness of her image increases the more she is remembered. Not just for me, but taking the memories of others into consideration, too. The woman brought sunshine into a room. She was blond and blue-eyed and radiant with energy and positive vibes. She smiled a lot, not only with her mouth but with her clear sapphire eyes. She was fun. She loved ‘action’ of all sorts. She wanted to be with people.
She wanted to be with people who were happy and lively. For most of her life that meant people who loved to dance! She was a dancer! Going to dance after dance, she was out on the floor with one partner after another. She was a ballroom dancer, not a “twister” or a “Hip Hopper”. She loved to dress up and have her hair done and wear jewelry that matched her clothes. She always dressed in pastel colors. She loved ruffles and bows and glitter. “ A woman should always Sparkle!” she said. And I borrowed that saying from her and use it often.
As much as she loved dancing, she loved her dogs even more. She introduced me to the phrase “Love me, love my dog.” And she meant it. She and my father had a succession of dogs; often several at a time. After he died they comforted her. During her single years, Mother became even more attached to the dogs she had. If a boyfriend did not treat her dogs well, he would soon be history.
Then it happened that her long remembered childhood sweetheart, Ed Wheeler, lost his wife after a long illness. It was not very long before they were lovers once more, just as if the intervening decades had never happened. It was sweet to see how happy they were. At first, they visited each other’s houses back and forth. But when summer came Ed went up to stay with Mother in her lovely house in Newport Rhode Island. Mother had two dachshunds at the time and they slept with her every night in the large King Size bed in her room.
Ed was not used to sleeping with dogs. In fact, he was really not happy about it. He said to mother, “Ruth, I have never had dogs sleep in my bed before and I don’t like it. If you insist on keeping them here while we sleep I am afraid I will have to go back to Washington.” He was serious. But so was Mother when she answered him without backing down an inch. “Oh, Ed!” She said, “ I am really going to MISS you!’ Haha! It makes me smile to remember the story. She told me that Ed got into bed and not another word was said about going back home to Washington. He adored Mother and was clearly bluffing. But Mother was not.
However, she had a solution to the problem. She ordered a female, long-haired, red, miniature dachshund puppy for Ed. She knew if he had his own, a pup that loved him in the special way that dachshunds do, he would want to have the dogs in his bed. It worked. (Of course). My mother knew how to keep her man happy even when he was being manipulated by her.
From then on the two of them each had their own dog. They spent evenings exchanging loving words with each other as well as about whose dog was sweetest, cutest, most affectionate. But they never discussed whose dog was most obedient. That word did not often apply to dachshunds. They were happy together with their dogs, their long-delayed romance, and they enjoyed each moment as it came. They understood that this time was a gift not given to everyone. They enjoyed life to the fullest though they were well into their 80s when he died.
Mother mourned him. But because she was a very practical woman, she compartmentalized her grief. She knew he was going to die before her. She was grateful for the time they had. She cherished it, but when it was over she did not pine. She kept going; dancing and socializing with various of her old friends who were still mobile.
She still attracted men. Women loved her, too. She gave many parties. She entertained at a black-tie, New Year’s Eve dinner dance for decades. She drove like a Banshee and knew her way around Washington like a tour guide. Her home was called Underoak and there she enjoyed the two and a half acres of lawn and gardens; often hosting garden parties in the late spring. These delighted guests when they came to one of her soirees. She was welcoming and sincere in her desire to mingle with everyone who was invited.
Her children all enjoyed her company and wanted to spend time with her. That was also true of her grandchildren. She had been such a fun and generous grandmother for so many years, she was surrounded by loving family much of the time. Even her great-grandchildren found her fun to be around. That is a testament to her great sense of humor, joie de vivre, and general affability. She was never formidable, or contentious; she was the embodiment of love.
So as Mother’s Day approaches I remember what fun she was and what fun we had together. We still talk about her with love and admiration. She is gone but her presence remains. The multiple happy memories are a source for conversation when something reminds one of us of her many sayings and funny quirks. As a mother myself, I understand how well she handled her three children, each with different agendas, and different ways of looking at life. She never judged us for our character. She had high standards for dress and deportment, but she loved us all even when we were glaringly wrong.
And I miss her every day. Happy Mother’s Day, Mother!
Copyright©. 2021 Bonnie B. Matheson