Posts Tagged ‘mother’s day’

One day, my 91 year-old mother and I were running some errands together, and she says to me,

“Just think, one day it’ll just me you, me, and Phillip.” (he’s my husband)

She sounded like a five year-old who really didn’t want her parents to have other children. I imagined her feet not reaching the dashboard of the car.

“What do you mean?” I asked. I was a sandwich generation mom and still had a 14 yr. old and 17 yr. old daughters at home.

“Your children will all be grown and out of the house, and then it’ll just be the three of us,” my mom added with a tone of deep satisfaction.

I began to see my future before me…years and years of caregiving, the three of us on the couch watching movies, the three of us on our 25th, 30th, 40th anniversary trips, the three of us toodling into the sunset….I started to hyper-ventilate. I loved my mom, and I liked she was with us, but I started worrying, what had I created? My mom had turned into that bratty kid at the birthday party who wanted to run the show.

Perhaps this was a tad too much…togetherness.

“Just how long do you plan on living?” I blurted, half-teasing. (I knew that would get her rialed up)

“HEY!” She snapped back, getting the joke.

I patted her hand and we both chuckled.

“By the time your children grow up, maybe you’ll be able to keep a clean house,” Mom teased, stealing the thunder with her great come-back line.

Nice, mom, nice.

Our little verbal bantering was half in jest, half venting (for both of us), and I liked that she could still “dish it out.” Humor is a sign of intelligence. Humor means you’ve still got a few marbles rolling around up there. Later, Alzheimer’s would rob my mom of her wit, but this day lives on. I read an article about quantum mechanics and time by physicist, Paul Davies. He referred to moments of time as spokes on wheel–each moment is a spoke that lives in continuum.

My family and I tell that mom story and many, many others. We have that sort of dark humor thing going on, and if you can’t take being teased, you might be in trouble. But with the teasing comes ferocious love.

So this Mother’s Day, tell your mom stories. Laugh until you snort and tear up. Laugh and remember.

~Carol O’Dell

Need to Laugh? Looking for a Speaker for an Upcoming Event?

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Author, Mothering Mother

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This Mother’s Day, I’m acutely aware of the lessons my mother taught me. Some are from her good example, her “momisms” she passed on through wit and wisdom, and at times, she taught me best by being a living example of how to do things differently.

What Mothers Teach Their Daughters:

What it means to be a woman.

Whether our mothers neglected themselves physically or emotionally, or taught us self-love and nurturing by example, or by neglect. Everything from body image to daily habits to whether we believe we’re prone to depression can be traced back to our mothers. It’s not that they were screaming, “Believe everything I say.” It’s more the power of a whisper.

How we view men.

Whether we like it or not, our mother’s voices linger in our heads and we base subconscious decisions on the words and actions, particularly when it comes to how we view our fathers (“He’s such a moron!” or “Your father is a good, good man”). Separating our experiences from theirs can be a challenge. Just because our mothers were “unlucky at love,” doesn’t mean we will be–or vice versa.

How we view women.

Did your mother have good friendships? Did she surround herself with a circle of estrogen? Did she have a best friend–or was it all catty, gossipy, destructive relationships that subliminally taught you that women couldn’t be trusted? When you have a problem, do you have a friend to call to work through your issues–whether big or small–whether it’s whining about your cramps or getting fired? Our mothers influence how we perceive women–as friend or foe.

Our own perceptions of our ability to mother.

Deep down, we believe things about ourselves–that we’re a good driver, or not–that we’ll be able to hold our tempers and be naturally attentive, easily confident moms, or if we’ll be the nervous, flighty kind. Most of us have this quiet, ongoing dialogue running in our heads that tell us about ourselves. It takes keen observance to hear these looping taped messages, and it takes diligence to analyze them and decide what messages to keep–and what to shred.

After years of being told what to do, we rebel either inwardly or for some, outwardly. This is necessary. We need to begin to think for ourselves, act for ourselves, and the best way to do that is by getting angry, beligerent, and yell, “I don’t see it your way, Mom.” That’s our first tiny root that sprouts to form our independent lives. It takes this jet fuel of anger, rebellion, or “I’m not you, Mother,” to begin to push away from the only home we’ve ever known. To make our own homes. Our own lives.

It’s not all bad news. Our mother’s effect is powerful–and can be our ally.

For most of us, we eventually make peace with our mothers. We have to. Why? Because it’s also a way to make peace with ourselves. The sound of their voice, the cadence in their speech, their smell, their thoughts on everything from religion to nail polish give us something to ponder.

Are we like them? In some ways. But one of the greatest lessons we learn is that the friction between mothers and daughters is in many ways, a good thing. We get to decide everyday–do we agree or disagree, do accept their teachings or forge a different path.

For me, my mother taught me:

That a strong woman is to be respected, but she won’t always be liked.

She taught me that adoring your husband and thinking he’s strong and handsome makes you look good. After all, you picked him out.

She taught me that humor can redeem a difficult person. She taught me that families take care of each other.

She taught me that standing up for myself was the only way I could be around her.

She taught me that dressing for one position higher than I currently am causes people to treat you differently.

She taught me that Southern food is in my opinion, about the best cuisine on the face of the earth.

She taught me that girlfriends can really make difference when you hit a bad patch.

She taught me that saying good things about your children makes you almost believe it’s all true. 

She taught me that caregiving is full circle, and yes, it’ll just about break you, you’ll learn more about yourself than you care to ponder.

She taught me that having a good attitude is about the only thing you can control.

She taught me that love is complex and you’d be surprised what all you can forgive–but in the end–redemption is sweet. 

What did your mom teach you?

~Carol O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother

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For many, Mother’s Day is bitter-sweet.

We try to avoid the fact that our mothers are gone or might be gone soon. We don’t like to say the word, “dead.”

 For many, Mother’s Day can be so painful that we do all we can to avoid it. That avoidance is part of grief, and it’s necessary for a while. Grief is like a good soldier, but there comes a time when you say “Thank you, you’ve served me well,” and you let that soldier be released from duty. 

After my mother died from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, I felt incredibly lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself. My arms felt unhinged and just hanging on by tendrils. I had been her daughter and her caregiver for so long and had invested so much time, energy, and heart into that role that other aspects of my life had withered away.

I missed my mother, how ironic. After months, if not years of longing for my freedom, of griping and complaining, all of it felt so trivial in comparison to my mother no longer being in my life.

I knew I had to get my bearings because I could feel myself spiraling downward. Who am I? What was I doing before caregiving? Do I go back to that–or move onto something else? I’m now the matriarch of the family…does that mean I’m…old? I’m the one butted up against eternity. There’s no one to buffer me.  No one to turn to. I’m the one others turn to–and that makes me want to run.

Feeling lost lasted awhile. I stumbled around and did whatever had to be done. I zoned out a lot. Not exactly a great conversationalist at that time in my life. But tentatively, I began to move beyond my grief. I began to grow hungry for life, for a routine, for something to sink my mind into. I returned to college. Someone else telling me what to do seemed to work. I started writing again.

An Excerpt from Mothering Mother:

I put Mother’s wallet and glasses in the top drawer of my dresser today. They’ve been sitting on top of it since she died four months ago. Mother kept Daddy’s wallet, pocketknife, comb, and a small Bible in a heart-shaped cedar box he gave her the second time they went on a date in 1925.  Something about these wallets left intact creates a sort of bubble holding time and memory in perfect stillness. Their licenses, credit cards, photos and slips of paper remind me that they had everyday lives.

This makes me question this whole “here, not here” mindset we have. Giving a friend a bit of humorous advice prefaced with “as my Mama always said…” is a way of keeping her here. Will there always be a bitter side of sweet?  Will death and dying burn away, so that I don’t have to run straight into them before retrieving a remembrance?

I hear Mother all the time and quote her daily. My friend Debbie’s teenage daughter asked her mother, “Don’t you trust me?” The age-old question every parent is eventually asked, the question we all secretly know the answer to. My southern mother answered that question when I asked it two decades ago, “ Honey, I don’t trust myself in the dark.” Hearing her words echo in my head was somehow comforting.

That first Mother’s Day was like a tender bruise. I didn’t want a lot of fuss. I needed a hug and a card, and then I needed it to not be Mother’s Day anymore.

Some time that week, I had a talk with my mother. Yes, out loud in the back yard. I thanked her for being my mother. For all we had learned. For all we had gone through.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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Dear Mother,

This is my fifth Mother’s Day without you.

I should clarify: without you physically here.

You are indeed, here.

I talk to you and listen to you more than ever. Never thought I’d say that.

Your stories, wisdom, advice, and crazy sayings all come out of my mouth.

Your stories, wisdom, advice, and all crazy sayings come out of my mouth.

You are remembered, your songs sung, and your recipes grace my dinner table often.

I’m now the family matriarch, and I’m somewhat comfortable with that new role. I’m the remember-er, the keeper of the stuff (birth, marriage, and death records, photos, jewelry, heirloom furniture), the family repository. In some ways, I don’t feel dignified or old enough for this role, but I guess I am. Old enough.

I still long to be somebody’s daughter. Do you ever get over that?

And yet, I do see that I needed you to get out of my way. Sorry, mom, but it’s true.

I needed this emotional space so that I could step into my own womanhood. This transition is natural. Mothers die. I too, will die. This is to make room for all the new mothers and all the new daughters. But mothers don’t just die, their seeds fall into the hearts of those who love them.

I also don’t want to sugar-coat you–or us. We were far, far from perfect.

I’m not even interested in perfect, who learns from perfect?

I see some wrong choices you made–some wrong choices I made.

I understand why: pain, fear, selfishness.

By analyzing “us” I can learn a few things, make different choices. I can’t imagine you being bothered by this now because whatever the “here-after” is, it has to put our petty issues in perspective, and I refuse to think of an eternity wracked with guilt and regret.

You’d be proud though.

My skirts are longer now, and I actually do own a slip.
I wear your broaches and scarves when I talk about you to
caregiving and Alzheimer’s groups–and I show your picture. I talk about you more now than when you were alive, and part of me finds that rather annoying. I hope to have as long of a shelf life as you are.

I’m a mother-in-law, which is completely weird, and I understand things different now.

I understand how trusting someone to love, respect, and care for your child is so scary, even when your daughters or sons are grown and tell you they don’t need your protection. They do. Spiritually, emotionally, not in your face, tell you what to do, but in a broader sense.

I understand how a wedding isn’t just about the bride and groom–how your dreams, your hopes, your family’s expectations somehow get tangled in the mix. It took me 25 years to stop blaming you for controlling my wedding.  

I understand how you long to have a quiet alone moment with the child you bore–how it’s hard to be second fiddle to person who once thought you carved the moon out of cheese and flung it to the sky.

I understand how hard it is to scoot one seat down and let the next generation take center stage when you feel like you barely got there.

I eat breakfast every day, something you couldn’t force me to do as a kid. I also hear those words slip out of my mouth–”Wear a hat, it’s cold.” I think of you and me, and all the hats I snatched off my head the second you weren’t looking, and here I am, dolling out the same advice. Did put a whammy on me?

I also insist my children call me every day. Just like you did.

It was the best thing you could have done, you know.

Even after five years, I so miss our calls. I can’t tell you how irritating they were, some days.

But those “I’m all right, busy today, love you, mom,” calls kept us going. I thought they were just for you, about you being needy.

I think of all the things I didn’t tell you in those phone calls –all the marital fights, the worries about my first gray hairs, my own children rebelling against me, the world’s best mother. I didn’t tell you what was going on in my life–not with words, but I think you knew because I know. I can measure the tone of children’s voice with my handy mother-barometer I now possess.

You didn’t need me to say things out loud, but you took your cue and prayed.

My daughters call every day. They do it automatically because I’ve forced them into this habit. 

Many days are short and sweet–and I too, listen to what all is not being said.

You taught me how to be a wife. Watching you love Daddy, dote over him, worry over him, and hearing you two laugh and talk until late at night and even as a child I’d have to holler to you, “Some of us have to go to school, you know!” What a legacy to leave to a child when so many couples don’t know how to weather life side-by-side. You also showed me the price of this love as I watched you grieve his passing, your body draped over his, your cries so heartbreaking I had to leave the room.

I miss you in a million small ways. I miss having a woman to pal around with–not to necessarily agree with–lord knows that wasn’t out strong suit. But I do miss your company, your sense of style, and I remember everything, everything you loved–pecan pie, Co-cola as you used to say–and a Snicker’s bar, homemade macaroni and cheese, and fresh sheets. Somehow, your preferences are now a part of my own–a way to remember you.

I’m a different woman now. Caregiving, sitting beside a loved one as they pass from this earth changes a person. I find myself more tolerant of the ambiguities of life and perhaps less tolerant of social situations where people simply posture, brag, or argue for the sake of arguing. I don’t have the patience for that sort of thing–even when, and especially when it’s coming out of my own mouth.

You’ve made me into an old soul. I could sit outside in a lawn chair and stare at the stars for hours.

But death had another effect on me as well–I want to live, to accomplish something you and my daughters will be proud of, to really be present–for all the big and small moments, to accept myself and those I love on an “as is” basis knowing good people only get better.  I can trust that this world still has a lot of goodness left in it, and I can be patient enough to wait for it. I can also accept the random chaos, the sorrows of all kinds of losses, and the uncertainty of something as out of our control as the weather or a nasty disease can obliterate your life as you know it at any time.

It’s all part of the package.

You’d be proud of me. I’ve grown up a little. I love with fierceness, and I’m tired of taking guff from people who just don’t matter.

I’m somehow coming into my own as a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend. Did you have something to do with that? Did caring for you, learning from you, learning how to be a woman, how to become a widow, how to grow old, and how to die get incorporated into me? I hope so because I can’t fathom how to do all this without you.

I need you to still teach me. I need your Southern wisdom. I need you to disagree with me. I need to butt up against somebody who will sharpen me a bit, force me to figure out what I believe–and what I don’t. I need a mother who will tell me, “Don’t buy that dress, your thighs look like tree trunks in.”

No one but your mother would dare.

I share this day with you.

You taught me how to be a woman, complex and defined, and how to be a mother even when your kids are grown and no longer think they need mothering–but they do, only in more subtle ways.

You taught me how to dig deep for strength and sit by someone dying without dying myself.

How not to fall apart. How to choose hope and faith when circumstances would say otherwise. How to speak my mind and hold my tongue, as needed.

You taught me that I could love more than I could ever imagine.

~Your daughter.

~Carol D. O’Dell is the author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir


Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

www.kunati.com Publisher

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It’s the simple things I miss about my mother.

Just two women shopping. Someone to be with. Someone who knows me better than I wanted her to.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

I’ll always miss you, and I’ll always carry you in my heart.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from my book, Mothering Mother:

When I Miss Her

I miss Mother when I go to the grocery store. Since I’m no longer eligible to park in the parking spaces for the handicapped, I must walk by the light blue and white lines as I head across the parking lot that no longer takes me ten minutes to cross. I see Mother grip the handle of the grocery cart and remember the freedom this rolling walker gave her.


I still see her curved spine dipping, her stockings slowly sagging from above her knees and eventually bunching around her ankles. I see her silhouette, complete with a bright blue nylon cap and its hundreds of petal-shaped pieces that made her head look like a massive flower. Some people loved her hat, others made fun of it, snickered about it behind our backs, but there were a few who found her and her blue hat endearing.


I miss her as I pass by the bananas. She said they gave her potassium and ate one a day. I had to buy seven a week—not six, not eight—though I often cheated, hoping to tide her over a day or two. Sometimes I get the urge to eat one in case I, too, am low on potassium. Any fruit she ate had to be peeled, cored and washed until it practically no longer resembled anything that ever lived. Apples were pale and tinged brown, grapes looked naked and embarrassed without their skins.


I miss her when I pass the Little Debbie display. Her face would light up at the sound of me opening the cellophane wrapper of an oatmeal pie.


I miss not picking up her half gallon of milk, her apple juice and her frozen dinners. I knew which ones she liked—the meatloaf, beef tips and flounder, nothing with pasta, very little chicken. Ice-cream bars remind me of her dying, not living. I can’t bring myself to eat one, or even buy them anymore.


I miss her small talk with the cashier, the slightly condescending way she treated the help, and the times she surprised me with genuine kindness and humor. As time went on, she took forever to get out her wallet, and two forevers to pull out her credit cards. She could no longer differentiate a Visa card from a debit card, from a license. She’d just let them pick, holding the plastic squares out innocently like a hand of playing cards. I always tried to catch her before she let strangers rifle through her entire wallet and checkbook. By then, some of her prejudices had diminished and she chitchatted with anyone who caught her eye, regardless of race, which was a pleasant change, though unreliable. She insisted the baggers carry our groceries to the car, no matter how few we had, and she saw no need to tip them. I’d slip them a dollar or two after buckling her in. Tipping never was her thing.


Now I just go to the store like anyone else. No one to slow me down, no one to check on, no bananas to count, no Little Debbies to hide so she won’t eat them all in two days.


It’s just ordinary, and what once seemed a bother, is now missed.


~Carol D. O’Dell


Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon



Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.opentohope.com

www.kunati.com, Publishers


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