Friday, May 3, 2013

For Mother's Day

Mom in her 20s (circa early 1950s), when she was a nurse in Hawaii.

With the first Mother's Day approaching since my mom stepped to the other side last August, I've been thinking about what a cool person she was.

After nursing school, she worked in Hawaii as a nurse before it was a state.  Her next job was as a nurse in Yosemite, where she met my dad. 

Later, she became a school nurse.  In that role, she taught a Sex Ed class to middle-schoolers. The kids wrote anonymous questions on cards, which she’d pull at random out of a box:

What’s an orgasm?
What do two men do when they have sex?
Can you get pregnant if you have sex standing up?

Mom would answer these questions straight-faced and seriously. I'm sure her deportment conveyed to the kids that all these taboos they giggle about, yearn for, and worry about are no big deal. They’re just part of life.

In mid-life, she took up piano lessons.  And then, with even more passion, writing.

Most evenings after dinner while Dad cat-napped in front of the TV, Mom sat before her computer. One of her first articles—“Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten?”— came from her knowledge of screening kids for school readiness. Mom researched freelance writing, reading numerous books on how to write articles, how to publish them, how to market yourself.

Later she wrote many other articles and two books about Color Blindness (which she screened kids for as a school nurse).  Still later, she wrote stories, and then romance novels.  Her love for science and California crept into her fiction.

My favorite is Love’s Golden Song, a historical romance that takes place in the Gold Rush era.  The heroine is a spunky, ahead-of-her-time newspaper reporter who decries hydraulic mining; her nemesis, who becomes her love interest, is—of course—a hydraulic miner. Mom did a lot of research to write this book, and the authenticity of the details is a pleasure to read.

That one was never published, but another one was:  Dinner For Two. Taking place in the Northern California towns of my youth, it’s about a woman named Misty, her love-interest Gene who is a colorblind (!) chef, and a mystery they get embroiled in involving food poisoning at the state capital in Sacramento.

I'm glad my mom got to use her mind so much before it began to drift to another plane due to Alzheimer's.  I'm grateful we were able to spend so much time together as she shifted and changed, while she still had language.  Until she couldn't write anymore, she kept a journal about what Alzheimer's felt like.

Eventually she couldn't speak anymore.  Given how much we used words as writers and consummate communicators, this lack of language shifted our relationship onto a new plane.  It became about presence.  Eye contact.  Energy.  Touch.

My mom is still very much alive in me.  From her I've inherited a love of travel and writing and laughter and mentoring. 

I know she wants me to thrive.  I can feel her rooting me on. 

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