I'm not big on mourning the past but somehow today is different.
It is November 27, 2020, a day after Thanksgiving Day 2020 and already the third Thanksgiving with out my mother, Patricia Bandy Simpson. Time has gone by so fast since her passing and not a day goes by that I don't think of her on an almost constant basis.
I think the most challenging emotional issue I have is on Thanksgiving and Christmas because if there is something that I remember about Mom it was all of the love and work she put into these two days to make them special for my brother, myself and her Grandchildren. She loved us all so much and wanted these days to be memorable for us and in the foolishness of youth it is possible that none of us appreciated just how much it meant to her.
That is really the message here isn't it? Yes, she did it for us, but in a deeper sense she did it for herself so she could have those special celebrated moments with us, share in our happiness of just being together.
Nowadays, when I think about my mother I think so often about how much she wanted us to be happy. How hard she worked to make my father happy. All she wanted was to do good things for people that would make them feel good.
But most of all I question how much we all considered her happiness. What were the things she wanted? What were the things that gave her happiness? What meant the most to her? Did we consider her needs anywhere near as much as often we took for granted the selfless acts of love she demonstrated to us?
Unfortunately I have to admit that I failed in that category.
What were the things she wanted?
Mom wasn't a pearls and diamonds girl. She wasn't impressed by designer clothes or the latest modes. She was a charming and beautiful woman in her youth, but certain physical issues over which she had no control caused her to have issues with her appearance over which she was very troubled and sensitive. She didn't use make-up nor like gaudy perfumes. So her own personal possessions when it comes to her own personal appearance meant nothing to her. Neither did new cars, big houses, impressive stuff or anything else that many people seem to value so much.
She appreciated everything and she loved her home so very much.
What did she like?
She liked smallness. She liked "little" notes from people mailed in pretty stationary. She like little memorabilia that had meaning and not just be cute. She like the color blue and the fireplace. She liked flowers on the porch, Dogwood trees and Daisies.
I remember the types of gifts I would get her that she liked and it was usually something she could wear or see. I got her a small ceramic figure of a momma cat carrying her kitten by the scruff of it's neck for Mother's Day, and she loved that little thing. She loved a watch necklace I got during my time in Zürich, which was she wore all of the time. She liked the smiley faced necklace I got for 3 Euros in Zandam, Holland which was made of a polished bronzy metal and flipped from happy face to sad face all of the time. She loved the smiley face things. I got her a müsli mug on a saucer, a happy face hotel front desk bell and other such things that she really got a kick out of. I tried scarfs, gloves, soaps and lotions and I got her a white bath robe with matching slippers all with her initials embroidered on it that she wore only on Christmas.
She liked listening to me sing, in church, onstage, in the house (except rock n roll) and she loved pretty music, good simple food, and a taste of wine every now and then.
One of the things that we did together that she really always enjoyed was going out to lunch somewhere. Her favorites were Red Lobster, Applebee's, Cracker Barrel, and Mariah's. She was also known to like the occasional Taco from Taco Bell and Pizza.
Mom loved watching football because she said it was interesting to watch so many different body types working together on a team, in a strategic way. She didn't like basketball so much unless the team had personalities on it and played in a fun way. But, really, the only team she cared about was the WKU Tops, and certain colleges and pro teams. She was a huge Tom Landry and Dallas Cowboys fan. I called her a white hat fan and I was a black hat fan for teams with attitude like the Oakland Raiders (Darryl Lamonica), Pittsburg Steelers (Terry Bradshaw), Minnesota Vikings (Fran Tarkington), Green Bay Packers (Bart Starr, and Bret Favre), and New York Jets (Joe Namath), Baltimore Colts (Johnny Unitas) and the Giants (Phil Simms) not really a black hat team though.
Then of course there was Kentucky Derby Day, when we would throw a party and everyone would have to pick horses, write down their predictions and bet a penny on them. I remember the greatest year of all was the epic runs of Secretariat who Mom loved to death, so I had to be the Devil's advocate and root for Sham, who would have been a Triple Crown winner in any other year. Derby Day is one of the best days in Kentucky. Everyone loves it, it is full spring time, it is fun to watch all the races and see who is there.
...but I have digressed...
One of the things that saddens me the most is how resistant Dad always was to Mom's wanting to update the house in some way. She always recognized the importance of keeping everything up from the appliances, to the doors and windows, to the flooring and so on. Dad was always hell bent on not "throwing stuff away" and "not spending money" that he would be against any improvement Mom would suggest, and was right about.
There is one concept that Dad never fully embraced and that was that their existence was based on the 50/50 system. Family strife is usually about money. Mom always worked for next to nothing but she was an awesome secretary and organizer for any type of organization. Certainly for the Simpson household her efforts created not only diligent bookkeeping and office organization but also in areas of investing and saving money where possible to increase the coffers of the accounts. Dad is a disaster at this stuff. He always considered everything "his", my money, my farm, my this and that. Mom always considered everything was ours. So, while Mom would try and do something for the common good of the household, Dad always took it as her spending his money and wasting it. Nothing could have ever been further from the truth. Everything she did was done economically and practically. He should have had a wife who really did want to spend money frivolously on things that don't matter and see how he liked that. Dad was the luckiest man on earth to have my Mom as his wife. She saved his butt more than a few times, and if not for her he probably would have never gotten a PhD or done as well as he has.
Mom was a brilliant woman. She did things so quietly nobody would notice. It was all so simple and yet, nobody else could do what she did. The biggest mistake this family made was having her work a job when she could have used her ample skills to find good investments, and ways to economize further. Warren Buffett would absolutely worship my Mom had he known her. As it was, we hardly ever ate out paying cash, it was always bought from Cash Back and Gift Cards and she always paid full tip cash on those purchases because she too had been a waitress and understood their plight.
Don't worry, she was not a weeping violet. She had backbone when necessary especially when it came to her family, especially her sons. She was the reason anything got done in our family. Don't get me wrong, Dad was great in other ways, but in areas he wasn't great in, he was malfunctional.
But when I think of all of this, I wonder why we all didn't do whatever possible to help her get more of what she really wanted. Women often have a good way of hiding their wants and needs. There is this self sacrificial myth that women believe they somehow have to live up to when they become mothers. Mom would always say, "I would dig ditches to see you get an education" and in many ways she did. I sometimes wished she had let us figure out that if we didn't want to dig ditches and to do well in school and getting degrees and good jobs was the pathway that we ourselves are responsible for.
But today, how does this all translate into my life?
I would love to bring her a couple of Tacos, or a just giver her a taste of pizza, a small sip of wine. I would love to move that planter to the other side of the deck or plant that flower in front of the Dogwood tree. Walking by the things she enjoyed from the grocery store like certain crackers, or a popsicle, possibly a certain type of pickles.
Sitting on the back porch having coffee on a Sunday morning when we could just talk and enjoy the morning, or trying a new place for lunch. She enjoyed such simple things and I wished I could still be giving her those moments she cherished so much.
The moral of the story is, there will be a time when you can no longer say the things you want to say, do the things you want to do, be there in the times when they need you the most, and my advice is use every moment and thing you can do to give that to them, because those times are getting fewer and fewer moving forward.
The last thing that I want to do is discuss nostalgic items. Mom liked mementos that reminded her of people and events from her life. While I have kept things from the past, I'm not one to hang on them so much. Mom got me a Keurig coffee maker for a Christmas present just weeks before she died. She was so proud of that gift and I use it every day and of course every time I use it I think of her. But I have problems with sentimentality, not because I don't value the thought of it, but because it makes you want to hold on to things and you get attached to them longer than their usefulness would normally demand.
I don't need anything to remember Mom by. This house is basically a manifestation of Mom, my childhood and so the entire place is embedded in the past. While I had a wonderful past, all of this stuff isn't me. In fact, our rooms here were never really our rooms. So, going forward I am going to have to decide what changes I may make if I stay here or what happens afterwards.
But, I had to say goodbye to Mom already and getting rid of something she gave me in the future will sort of feel the same way again. It was painful enough with Grandmother Bandy. The question is how to I move on with my new life so wherever I live I make it my own. I've had that in the past, and want that again. In fact, I feel as if I need to make a completely new start. But it will have to wait.
The legacy my Mom leaves behind is one of doing for others, making others happy and feel appreciated.
Mom was a truly very good person. The rest of us, well, truth be told, not so much. I will always think of her and remember the fact that she gave me so much more than I could ever do for her.