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Sunday, May 8, 2011

To My Imperfect Mom on Mother's Day

I came across an article today celebrating the imperfect mother. Wow! Did that resonate with me. If you think you are the perfect mom, just ask your kids. They will clue you in pronto on all the ways you failed and how you messed them up. And, of course, they are not going to make all those dastardly mistakes with their own kids. (Heh-heh, just wait.)

I remember blaming my own mom. Hey, I became an adult in the 60s when it was mandatory to find somebody to blame for everything you didn't like about yourself. We were all victims of bad toilet training, or being forced to eat our carrots, etc. But then the lightbulb (finally) went on. You become an adult when you start taking accountability for yourself and stop blaming other people for your flaws. Why did it take so long for that reality to penetrate my thick skull? I guess I'm a slow learner.

Most parents are doing the best they can with the resources they have at the moment, their "lousy best" as my sister often says. Their parents weren't perfect either, after all. My mom raised ten kids amid constant change with no extended family around to help. Daddy was in the Navy and we packed up every three to four years to move to a new house in a new place -- sort of like the Mad Hatter's tea party on speed. Some kids keep milestones like what they did on such-and-such a birthday. I measure my life by the name of my street, the layout of the house, and the school of the year. At the time it seemed an adventure; in retrospect I wouldn't have wanted to rear my own children on the fly.
Mom was an amazing woman in many ways. The thing I remember most is that she was unceasingly cheerful. I don't remember her complaining about anything and with ten kids and lots of challenges she certainly could have spent her life feeling sorry for herself. She didn't. She just went about doing her never ending duties of washing, cooking, cleaning, taking us to church and confession, etc. with a smile on her face. When she had health problems she dealt with them and spent little time in bed. I remember after knee surgery how she sat on the table with a weighted bag around her ankle lifting and bending and crying from the pain. She was determined to regain full range of motion. The doctors said she never would. She proved them wrong.

On top of that she was a good officer's wife going with daddy to all the social events that went with his jobs. I remember as a little girl seeing her dressed for a fancy party and thinking she looked like a princess. She was always lovely and meticulous and almost always wearing a skirt or dress except during the coldest days of winter. One of my sisters asked her daughter once what she thought dressing modestly meant and she said, "Dressing like Grandma." What an insightful answer.

Mom aged gracefully and never stopped serving others. In her 80s she was still volunteering at the Little Sisters of the Poor twice a week, sewing and visiting the residents, many of whom were younger than she was. Every January she organized the March for Life buses for her parish and raised thousands for the cause getting people to sponsor the walk. In her later years she would get off the bus and start walking long before the March began so she'd have time to finish (with a walker because of her bad knees). Perseverance and fortitude were intrinsic to her nature.  

None of us is a perfect mom. I often tell my kids that I always tried to give everything I had. Sometimes it was only a thimbleful, sometimes it was a glassful. I wish it could have always been an ocean full. For all of us there's a big gap between the love we need and the love we receive. That's because, as St. Augustine says, our hearts are restless until they rest in the Lord. In the meantime, moms try to fill that gap doing "our lousy best."

So here's to my mom today. Your "lousy best" was better than most, Mom. Thanks for everything


Ray Schneider said...

Mom was amazing in so many ways. She always encouraged my interests. She encouraged me to write short stories when I was little and to draw my cartoons and water colors. She had my paintings all over the house so when I was the executor of the estate it was moving to see the paintings I'd done. None was all that terrific although I had loved making them.

She was worried that I was reading pulp science fiction as a kid and encouraged me to read C.S. Lewis by pointing out that he'd written science fiction and put me onto "Out of the Silent Planet" which at the time I didn't like which really disappointed mom. Later she put me onto "The Abolition of Man" which she bought and inscribed for me on a birthday and that was the beginning of my C.S. Lewis scholarship. She put me onto Chesterton and John Henry Cardinal Newman, and Leo XIIIth and so many other writers.

Thanks Mom! I miss her a lot sometimes. She would always listen to my stories, the little vignettes I told about my adventures and laugh or comment at just the right places.

Anonymous said...


Ray Schneider said...

Mary ... you inspired me to write a little about mom on Spitzenpopper.


Happy Mother's Day to you too Mary!!

Alice said...

Great post Mom!
I think if we want our own children to forgive our shortcomings and love us as we are, we have to do the same thing for our parents. At the same time, I hope that my kids are better parents than I am--I hope that my influence in their lives helps our family line to keep getting better and to live lives ever more devoted to loving and serving God.
I consider myself blessed that God chose you to be grandma's daughter and then me to be yours. And though I understand the meaning of the phrase "lousy best", I don't consider your best to be lousy at all.
Love you mucho. Alice

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Thanks Alice, ]

What a lovely Mother's Day present. And I still have the little sign you sent me hanging on the lamp switch above my computer. I smile every time I read it and am eager for my walking partner to arrive for a good long visit.