For my Mom

Julie, Mary, Mom with Nancy, and Jean Meylor

My Mom passed away two years ago on April 25 from lymphoma, a cancer she fought for several years.

She was a strong woman, who always put her family first. She had eight children — her first child at age 20 and her last 19 years later. She could drive a tractor and wore white gloves to Mass.

She was there at all the basketball games and school musicals and plays and band concerts and art shows. She was a Girl Scout leader, a Cub Scout leader and a CCD teacher, on every kind of committee possible, belonged to card clubs and craft clubs. She loved to read and left her bookmarks in my library books. 

When Jack LaLanne died earlier this year, my memories went back to my Mom trying to exercise in the living room while surrounded by four or five kids imitating her as she followed Jack’s instructions on our black-and-white TV set.

She made great fried chicken, banana bread and potato salad. She liked to play cards — and she liked to win. She always had a big garden, and she spent a lot of quiet time there on summer days. She took us to the pool and to the lake, but I never saw her in a swimsuit. She enjoyed fishing, but she didn’t seem to like camping (still had to cook, but over a campstove).

She lost her mom when she was barely two and lost a stepmother just a few years later. She lost a child when she was 27, and almost lost a husband. I never asked how all of that loss changed her — or what it was like not to have a mother. I only know I rarely saw her cry. She was private, quiet, strong and kind.

I wish I had asked her more questions about her life and her dreams and her losses.

I love you, Mom. And I wish I would have said that more to you, too.

This is the poem I read at her wake. I wrote it on the plane to Iowa two years ago. It’s rough and needs revision. But I know it’ll never be done, so here it is.

Raising Her Garden
for Irene Meylor (1930 – 2009)

Mom’s garden spread from the kitchen,
a rectangle bordered by strawberry plants
and a blaze of four o’clocks at the back door.
All tethered in perfect east-west rows.

First in, potatoes: when winter’s crust
of slush and ice still crept in shadows.
Good eyes from last year’s crop were
stomped in by children’s planted heels.

With May came, bright seed packets
sprinkled in hoe-scraped furrows.
Finally, black four o’clock seeds
in thick ribbons saved in baby food jars.

The garden gave all summer long.
First, tender onions, radishes and lettuce.
Later, heavy beets, tomatoes, cucumbers,
things to boil, freeze, can or consume.

Her garden made a great hiding place.
Sprawled flat within its green safety
during marathon games of kick the can,
we picked pea pods to eat like candy.

She was often there, pulling, picking,
hoeing, pinching back. Within its borders
she let her fingers repeat mindless tasks
as she planned, dreamed, enjoyed silence.

Mom’s garden spread from the kitchen,
offering refuge, sweet smells, nourishment,
filling us body and soul, asking nothing.
Tethered in eight perfect rows to her heart.

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8 thoughts on “For my Mom

  1. Julie,
    I saw the link to your blog on facebook and have been sucked in for nearly two hours now. (It’s been a great way to avoid work.) I was reading this entry about your mom and came across the description: ” I only know I rarely saw her cry. She was private, quiet, strong and kind.” and it was like reading a description of Dad. Lillian and your mom were the only ones that I heard call my dad “Bobby”. It always made me laugh, and as a child it reminded me that he too was once a young boy. Your mom was always so kind and gentle and always seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.
    I will be back to read more and will be sharing this blog with my literature teacher.
    Thanks!

  2. Mary,

    Thank you so much for getting stuck here and letting me know. Your comments touched way down deep. Made me cry. So odd that you write this now. I’ve been thinking about my mom all day. Went for a walk and started working on a poem about her in my head. Walks are good for that. And then I saw your note here — maybe a nudge from the universe to keep working on it.

    How is your dad doing? Bobby — it’s always great to see our parents from a different perspective. So you must teach at Heelan? Or an administrator? This social media world gets a lot of negative words, and maybe rightly so, but I do know it has connected me with many and made me feel richer for it.

    Please visit again and tell me your own memories — or more about your big Fischer family. Do you get together often? My best to you all.

    j.

  3. Julie,
    Dad is doing well. He had a valve replacement in early February in Rochester. He had his 30 day check up today and the doctors were pleased. Prior to his surgery he was not doing well at all. He and your mom sound so much alike. He never complains about anything, so none of us really knew how bad it actually was for him.

    The family is able to get together pretty often actually. Sharon, Roger, Ronnie, Marlene and I all live in NW Iowa so we get together for all holidays. Their children are either in Minnesota or Iowa, so they are around as well. Duane lives in Blue Springs, MO and Maureen is living in Hermosa Beach, CA. Everyone is together at least twice a year as we have been having graduations and weddings nearly every year for quite some time now.

    Memories: I remember that I was a pest to my “older” cousins! 🙂 Seriously, I have great memories about growing up and even used to write about them. I recently lost a very close friend to lymphoma (four years can feel like yesterday and forever all at once). I started to write about Marilyn and her last year, the conversations we had and how her life and death affected me. I left that writing two years ago and haven’t gone back to it. Your writing has made me want to try again. Thank you.
    Mary

  4. Sounds like you have lots to write about yet — and I hope you do. And, if you do, I’d love to read it. Glad to hear your dad is doing better and my best to your whole family.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking such a careful look at my site. So many people tell me they come here and read, but you, a total stranger, leave some words of encouragement. What a gift! I will come by your blog home soon. I already am up way too late! Spin at 6 a.m. tomorrow!

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