Come for the Politics, Stay for the Pathologies

Friday, July 30, 2010


She Dewey’s Memorial to He-Dewey’s Mom, who will be missed terribly by everyone


mom copyMom, before she was “Mom” 

I will, of course, always remember the first time I met Mom. Everyone does. I was 21, she was 44.  With all the wisdom and perspective of my 21 years  - and although she had just given birth to her ninth child a few months previously - I was prepared to meet a seriously old, matronly woman.

Imagine my shock then, when, even through my youth-distorted lens , I laid eyes on this stunningly young and beautiful creature. Mothers are not supposed to look like that, and certainly not without any artifice beyond a little lipstick. Her un-retouched hair -  which she described as “prematurely grey”  - was actually that rarest of midlife gifts: a true salt and pepper mix of shocking white blended evenly with still shocking black.  While it gradually migrated to pure white over the next 40 years, at the time it was, naturally, the effect that color stylists continually attempt to create with streaky-highlights but have yet to convincingly duplicate.

But as I came to appreciate over the next many years, Mom’s ability to channel Donna Reed’s  looks, charm and good humor was the least of her many skills and virtues. In fact, it was a minor category in her full repertoire: for she was a bona fide superwoman. I’ll just run you  through the Super Woman checklist, and you be the judge:

mom crop2 copy_thumb[1]

1) Be gorgeous, no matter what. Check. Extra credit for using absolutely no makeup, no haircolor, and off-the rack clothes, often covered by an apron.

2) Have children. Check. Extra credit for each child  beyond the nominal two.

3) Run an efficient household. Check. Extra credit if you hate to cook but still manage to turn out delicious meals.  (And yikes! Extra-extra credit if each bed in the household is made up with  freshly ironed sheets! And there are extras in the linen closet!) 

4) Have a meaningful job outside the home as well.  Check. I assume her volunteering at the school and church don’t count, but how about business partner in the family business? Will that do? Extra credit if you’re the one who pays the bills. A few demerits  for forgetting to  cut yourself a paycheck for about 50 years.

5) Remain cheerful and hopeful in the face of adversity. Check. My God, how did she manage that?

In addition to running  a (huge) family,  home and business, Mom was also the one who welcomed scores of relatives into her home, year after year at every major holiday.  Some of  the invited guests were shirt tail relatives, some technically not related at all, but had no where else to spend the holidays. For years I didn’t know who were “real” relatives and who were in-laws of in-laws,  employees, or friends. It  just really didn’t seem  matter.

Still not impressed? How about I tell you that Mom also nursed, at different times,  both her own mother and an uncle in their last years in her home. Both of whom were bedridden. With no outside help what-so-ever.

So don’t even tell me about today’s  overcommitted “busy Mom.” This woman invented the term. She was a quiet dynamo, who seemed to run constantly, efficiently at an even speed. We could arrive at midnight or 3 AM on Christmas morning, she was still cheerfully wrapping presents, serving up chili or goulash – and looked as if she had just wakened from a refreshing nap – which of course she hadn’t. My awe for her in those years was akin to that of  a 5 year old whose mother seems faultless and capable of anything.

Of course  I know that was an idealized view.  And I know she wouldn’t have been able to do what she did without the support and devotion of Dad, her husband of  over 61 years.


Dad, circa 1943

But even absent the allusion of perfection and allowing for her few human foibles (including never having learned to drive), I still find my awe completely justified.

So here’s to our super-mom: a woman who could, and did, do it all. Not because of the siren call of feminism, but because that’s what real women have always done. Mom just did it much better than most: quietly, effectively, selflessly and without much fanfare. Her family,  including those of us privileged to have married into it, will  forever be the beneficiaries of her care, concern and selflessness.

And so it is her selflessness that I’ll remember most. The only thing I know of that she ever truly wanted for herself was snow, once the winter solstice arrived. And there could never be  too much snow in Mom’s opinion.  It’s a pity we can’t all squeeze the amount of joy out of something as simple as a snowfall as she could - although I attribute that in part to the fact that not once in her life did she have to drive in it.

I sure hope they have tons of snow for you in heaven Mom. I’m sure my Mom and Dad will show you the ropes up there, and we’ve already seen evidence that they have. Please be sure to send some of your snow our way from time to time, when the solstice arrives, so we know you’re thinking of us  - hopefully when we don’t have to drive anywhere.

Missing you forever.


mom&dad copy

Mom and Dad, last year, Still beautiful.