Mother’s unwanted traits are now wanted
Published 10:58 am Monday, March 11, 2013
Column: Something About Nothing, by Julie Seedorf
Today I dedicate my column to my mother, Petronella Krock Young. As I write this column on the 11th anniversary of her death, memories are swirling in my mind.
My mother was Polish, and her parents came to America in the late 1800s. Her mother, who lived until 1967, never did learn to speak English. Her father died when she was 23 years old. She was the only girl in a family of five boys.
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In my mom’s early years, she became a teacher and taught in one-room schoolhouses in rural areas.
She met my father and they courted for 13 years before they got married because of religious differences; she was Catholic, and he was Protestant. They were married for a few years when she had me at the age of 42. Yes, I was an only child, a very spoiled only child.
My mom and dad owned a shoe store in downtown Wells from the early 1950s until the late ’60s, at which time they retired. My dad died a year later, and my mom kept on going to the ripe age of 93.
I wish I could tell you my mom and I always got along. We didn’t. She was a great mom, and she was a hard worker. She was also very headstrong. I didn’t always appreciate that because I was headstrong, too. My mother was very vocal when she thought I was making the wrong choices. She was also a worry wart, especially when I was younger and would want to do things that she thought were risky but were just a part of life.
I didn’t understand her, and she didn’t understand me. She loved her grandchildren and would spoil them terribly. She always had time for them no matter what she was doing. She put them first in her life. Yes, she would interfere with our parenting when she disagreed with our decisions. That was part of her headstrong personality. I always said when I was younger that I didn’t want to be like my mom.
I wish she were here so I could tell her now, in my older age, that I want to be just like her. She had perseverance, grit and toughness. If my mom believed she could do something, she did it. Looking back on her life, she had to be that way.
At one point she broke her hip, and as we were in the hospital, clarity had come to her mind after a long time of forgetfulness. She told me her dream had been to teach in Alaska. I always knew she loved teaching, but because she was the only girl and she had to take care of her ailing mother, she gave up her dream. In those moments of clarity, before the forgetfulness came back, I came to understand her a little better.
My mom always wanted to live her life out in her home, but because of her stubbornness she wouldn’t let me help her. Her dementia was worse and to the casual observer’s eye she was possibly OK, but for her safety, she needed to somewhere safe. It was not an easy decision for me to make. She adjusted well and after that strange hospital moment, she became a mother I had never known. She was funny, and was always happy. She would want to go home, but it was always: I can’t go today though, I have too many things to do.
The last conversation we had with each other, she said to me: “Things happen for a reason. God has a plan.” I was going through a difficult situation in my life that she didn’t know about. My mom never talked about God, so I will always remember that conversation. It was very out of character for her.
Looking back now after she is gone, I remember her life differently as I am older. My mom was always working. She started early in the day by taking care of her mother and then my uncles, along with being bookkeeper, orderer and taking care of all the details of their shoe store, and she took care of my dad and me.
My mother’s only me time was at midnight when she completed her work and would read the paper, long after my dad and I went to bed. In my selfishness, I did not see that and she wouldn’t let me help her with anything. That was her job, according to her. Mine was to be a kid and a teenager. She wanted me to have the life she never had.
She became crabby in her later years, and dementia set in. There was a time she hated me and accused me of doing things I never did or would have done. I knew that was her dementia and not my mom.
Looking back now, before her dementia set in, I know that she would not accept help because she didn’t want to be a burden on her family. She didn’t want us to have to take care of her and give up our dreams the way she had to give up on her dreams. I now see the love that was there in that decision. She didn’t know that by not accepting our help it made it harder for us to give back to her for all her years of care.
Reading the letters that were left to me between my mother and father, I see the woman she used to be many years ago, full of dreams and love and hope. Life changed her, but she was tough, she was a survivor. She lost many people she loved, and she grieved and then she moved on. I want to be that survivor. I want that Polish toughness, and, yes, I want to be like my mother.
No matter how much time passes after those we love have left us, we never forget them. I like to think that a breeze blowing on my shoulder or an imagined whisper in my ear are those we love letting us know that everything is OK. So, Mom, if you are up there as an angel on my shoulder, I hope you know how much I loved you, that you are never forgotten, that I want to be like you and that I am sorry I couldn’t tell you these things when you were alive.
“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”
― Mitch Albom, “For One More Day”
Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.