Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Like Mother, Like Son: Growing Up and Growing Old Together

My Mother, Wilma Irene Shelley (Brownie) Williams was born January 9, 1921 and died September 20, 2017. This is a remembrance and tribute I read at her funeral.

When I think of growing up with my mother, both of us young but I younger, I am very thankful for the sometimes unjustified trust she placed in me, the somewhat dangerous freedom she allowed, and the self-confidence she always exhibited and encouraged. She was a strong, empowering mother, a woman who knew what she wanted. She couldn’t have paid a better compliment to my fiancĂ©, Karen, in the summer of 1964 when, after going through the planning and activities leading up to our September wedding, she said to me, “Karen is a young woman who knows what she wants.”

One thing I learned from Mother, and Daddy, in my childhood and adolescent years was that a life like theirs, centered on work and home and family and church, is a good life. Thanks to her and the example she and Daddy set, my goal, what I wanted, from adolescence, was to live such a life. I was blessed with the appearance of Karen, who seemed to have a similar goal, and we got an early start, getting our family well under way while Mother was still working on raising hers.

Through all the middle years Mother and I had a good but also somewhat distant relationship. I was always interested in what she and Daddy were up to, and they were always interested in what we were doing. I don’t recall getting any advice or guidance from her and Daddy in those years, nor do I recall feeling any need to offer them any. We didn’t phone or write often or spend a lot of time together, just visiting three or four times a year and always enjoying each other’s company, but not a lot of deep or serious discussion.

I’ve often wondered what life would have been like if I had spent it all in Maryville in pretty much constant contact with Mother and Daddy, maybe even running a little furniture business. I believe that, as independent as Mother and I both were, we were better off with some distance. I might have driven her into an early grave had we been closely monitoring and commenting on, and perhaps hearing gossip, or just opinions, about each other’s activities all those years.

Then, over the last ten or fifteen years, there was a change, both of us old, but she older. I am again very thankful for the trust she placed in me and freedom she gave me to take care of her financial and property and legal issues. I never was able to mow the lawn to her complete satisfaction, and she was a very tough sell on moving to an assisted living environment, but she always trusted me to handle the money and pay the bills and would sign whatever I put in front of her. That made my job easy, and I am thankful for that.

Mother didn’t want to live this long. (Yes, I might have helped her die younger, as I mentioned, by staying in Maryville.) Her dream was to die peacefully in her sleep just before losing control and becoming dependent on others. When Daddy died in 2003, she told some of us that she would be following right behind him. When, ten years later, she moved to assisted living at Sterling House, I said something about the upcoming Christmas, and she informed me she wouldn’t be around at that time. I always told her I had her on a ten year plan and that she needed to find something to do.

I remember in her middle years one of Mother’s favorite things was to visit elderly folks and take them some beautiful item she had made at her speedy sewing machine or something delicious  grown in her very productive garden or made in her efficient kitchen from her extensive recipe collection. I think she must have decided during those years that she did not want to be one of those people, sitting or lying and waiting for visits and gifts. I believe that feeling was strongly reinforced when she saw Daddy move to a “memory care” facility and saw her younger sister die in nursing and hospice care. So, in her last years, Mother had to learn patience, a very tough lesson for an impatient woman.

If you didn’t know her, you might think Mother was lacking in faith and optimism, but that would be wrong. She was very optimistic about going to Heaven soon, and, note taker and list maker that she was, I suspect she had written and memorized a list of things to go over with Clyde Williams as soon as she got there and was looking forward to doing so.

Through all her declining years, my prayer for her was always for peace and comfort, if not joy, and hopefully a little joy mixed in along the way. I believe those prayers were answered partially as she lived and now they are answered in full.

Thanks be to God.

Her obituary can be found here.