For most of the past decade, I’ve seen Mother’s Day in a much different light than I did during my first 64 years of life.
You see, it’s been a little more than nine years since Mom passed away. She was 86 years old and that’s a pretty good age to reach by anyone’s standards, but not if you were one of seven Knox girls. You see, Mom was the fourth born of 11 Knox children and the third oldest of the seven girls.
But, she’s the first to have passed. Her older sisters, Sarah and Ruth, are now 99 and 97, both soon to add a number to those milestones. Four younger sisters are now well past 80 and one of them is also in her 90s. Mom would now be 95, well on her way to 96. It’s still difficult, at times, to realize she’s gone, especially given the longevity of others in the family.
All of us whose mothers have passed, I’m sure, have fond memories to cherish. Many of those thoughts from the past will come up as we think about life with mom.
Certainly, I don’t believe my mother was the only mom who ever gave more than she received, but every story is personal, just like mine.
It’s no secret that my younger brother and sister and I grew up in a home that was a far cry from the wealthiest in town. My parents struggled to make financial ends meet, but they still found time to spend extra on their three children, each of whom could be, in reflection, somewhat demanding at times.
When I “needed” a chest protector so I could play catcher in childhood games of baseball, Mom saw to it that I had one. She found a photo of a Major League chest protector on one of my early baseball cards, used it as a pattern and sewed me a chest protector. That’s the way she was her whole life — if someone “needed” something and she couldn’t afford to purchase it, she’d make it.
I cherished that chest protector for years, wore it out before I gave up on my catching career.
Looking back now, I vividly remember Mother’s Day as it was before I left home and began finding my own way through life. Memories, though, are not really about celebrating my mother. Seems to me that every Mother’s Day was spent much like other days, beginning with a trip to church followed by a wonderful Sunday dinner. Of course, Mom “celebrated” Mother’s Day by cooking that meal over a hot gas stove. More than likely, Mom would be the one who really didn’t want that last piece of apple pie, even though she’d not had a single slice; Mom didn’t want any more mashed potatoes, and she was “too full” to have a second helping of fried chicken, even though she’d eaten just a single wing.
Though there are countless memories of my mother that fill my mind, especially on Mother’s Day, there’s one that is tangible, one that has endured more than a half-century and one that I “dig out” of a box in the closet at least once every few years. It was a gift sent to a soldier around the world in what was then West Germany at a time when many young American men were serving in the jungles of Vietnam.
It’s circular, perhaps five inches in diameter, encased in a square box just the right size and only about a half-inch thick. The box is in a large plastic tub with many other similar boxes. But, this one’s easy to find because it’s clearly marked “Tape from Home, 1967.”
It’s an old reel-to-reel audio tape that was actually made for me during a family dinner on Thanksgiving Day of 1967 at the home of my aunt and uncle, Gerald and Ruth Blair, in Iowa Falls. Ruth is one of Mom’s two older surviving sisters. Ruth and Mom were virtually inseparable when they were growing up because they were the closest of the two Knox children in age.
Joining in the family gathering that afternoon in Iowa Falls was Uncle Gerald’s brother, Dale, and his band that also included guitar player Dave Rentz of Parkersburg and steel guitar player “Frog” Freed of Eldora. The tape includes a lot of music — my Army buddies, at first, called it real “hokey” music, but soon came to like it because of the love it shows — and quite a bit of advice from family members, Mom, Uncle Gerald and Uncle Jack, my grandfather Charlie Knox and, of course, Dale Blair, who at one point grabbed the microphone and said, “Lemme talk to him … hey, Billy, off the record, have you met any good lookin’ frauleins over there? … Just kiddin’, of course,” followed by a lecture that ended, “We’ve got a place here at the table for you, just waitin’ for you to come home.”
It was one of several tape recordings sent back and forth between my mother and me a half-century ago. The idea was that when I’d send a tape home, Mom would listen to it, then record over it and send back a new message. Mom never did tape over one of mine. She kept them all and, of course, I kept the one sent to me late in 1967. Long ago, Mom gave me each tape I’d sent home, so the boxful of tapes also includes an audio of one Friday night gathering with my German friends at the “Stammtisch” and another is an audio of my “Short Timer’s Party” thrown by my Army pals just before I was discharged in 1968.
The one that always draws me back, though, is a recording of that family gathering in 1967.
It doesn’t seem fair at all. On this Mother’s Day, I should be remembering things I did for Mom. But, it’s just the opposite.
I’m remembering what she did for me.
Bill Haglund is a retired writer for the Boone News-Republican and Dallas County News and can be reached at email@example.com.