I haven’t written much lately Actually, I have written a ton lately but all academic. All for school. I have entered the last six-weeks of a two-year program of working on my Masters in Strategic Leadership. It has been brutal. I have missed writing for pleasure. A lot. I have still maintained my journal but it is not the same. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I realized I have not written much about my mom. And I have been thinking about her a lot. So school work will have to wait.
A couple of months back I went for a long run with my dog, Thompson, on Kipton Bike Trail. Thompson did well for 3.25 miles but the last 3, not so much. I decided to stop and get ice cream on the way home to
medicate treat myself after a long, frustrating run.
The lady at the ice cream place asked me if I was Heidi Strickler. I was freaked out a bit until I realized she had my debit card. She went on to ask if I was the Heidi Strickler from Vermilion. I answered “yes”. She responded with “I know your mom and dad. I used to hang out with them.” She used the present tense. My mom has been gone 31 years and my dad 9. I proceeded to tell her both my parents were gone. She asked about an uncle and other family members. I had to watch her expression as I told her each family member she asked about had died. I think I relived five family deaths in the span of three minutes. That moment has stayed with me. It has made me think a lot about my mom.
I asked the lady if I could ask her a question. I never knew my mom as an adult and there are so many questions I have. I asked her what my mom was like. I only knew her as a mom — a mom who did not cook well, a mom who loved to play bingo, a mom who made sure we had a hot breakfast and who loved the Cleveland Indians, a mom who made sure we played outside as much as possible, a mom who instilled in us a love of reading, and a mom who would hang out the American flag on the first day of school saying that was the real Mother’s Day (she was stuck with three kids who were all born within five years of each other all summer long). She made sure our birthdays were special. One year (it was after she had her second stroke) she bought me a really cool comforter for my birthday. That night as I turned off my light to go to bed, I saw this big, glowing thing on my bed. Freaked me out. Unbeknownst to my mom, she had bought me a glow-in-the-dark comforter. I am one who must have complete dark in order to sleep. I did not get much sleep that night. We laughed a lot about that comforter.
My mom had her first stroke when I was in the 6th grade. It was a mild one. She had her second one my freshman year. It left her in the hospital for two months. She never fully recovered. She passed away suddenly the summer before my senior year. I was just 17. I just have so many questions.
She married my dad, who was 20 years older than her. I always wanted to ask her about that. My dad was an alcoholic. I always wondered why she stayed. I wondered what her childhood was like, where she and my dad got married, did she want to be something more than a housewife? She lost her father when she was 11. My dad lost his mom when he was 15. I have questions about menopause now that I am approaching the age. I also have some other, private questions.
I couldn’t ask my grandma. She died 15 months after my mom of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Her speech was the first to go.
Mother’s Day is tomorrow. Some years are tougher than others. It can be sad because I also don’t have any children. To be honest, I never remember wanting to have kids. I am good with them and love them and am the best aunt ever but to have some of my own is not something I ever envisioned for myself. I thought I would get married someday but life was always so busy and so full. When I turned 44 I remember waking up one day and wondering “How did I get to be 44 and not married?” I wasn’t sad or lamenting the fact…just wondering how life led me here. I have had an amazing life and have gotten to see and do some pretty incredible things. Life has always been busy but the kind of busy in which I still have time to appreciate and enjoy life.
Today was graduation day for me. I opted not to go to graduation for many reasons. The primary reason is it is in California and we still have 6 weeks left of our last class which is working on our Capstone. I want to be able to take a vacation when this is done with no school work hanging over my head. I have to admit, though, I was a bit sad seeing the pictures of my classmates.
It made me think again of my mom. She never saw me graduate from high school or college or now with my Masters.
I went to the cemetery to put flowers on her grave. I always leave there thankful. Thankful for where I come from. Thankful for who my parents were. Thankful for the memories it invokes. Thankful for my five sisters and brothers. Growing up was not easy but it forged me into the woman I am today. Mother’s Day is about women. And I am thankful that I have grown up to be a strong, independent, caring woman who loves Jesus and her family. I am thankful that I live in a society in which women can be educated.
I remember my dad telling me that I did not have to get married to be complete (he didn’t say it in those exact words…he was Archie Bunker after all) and that I could be anything I wanted to be. My mom and I never got to have those kinds of conversations.
And this Mother’s Day, I grieve over that.
But I am thankful that I do not grieve as someone who does not have hope. I have hope because life does not end at the grave. Because of Jesus, death has just become the doorway to eternal life. And one day, I will be able to have the conversations with my mom.