Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: START (02/25/16)
TITLE: Where to Begin
By Holly Westefeld
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She was just shy of twelve when Pearl Harbor was attacked, ensnaring the United States' entrance in to World War Ii. She probably told me what it was like to gather around the radio for the news, or what sacrifices her family made to support the troops, but I was too young to absorb it, or still naive enough to think I had plenty of time to hear the stories again.
I know she met and married Daddy in El Paso, Texas, but I couldn't say what attracted them to one another, or what their parents thought of the match. I don't remember her talking about planning the wedding, their wedding day, or whether or not they went on a honeymoon. Why do these things never seem important until it is too late to ask?
What I do know is that I didn't realize what a great mother she was until I was old enough to learn that there are some really awful mothers out there, and of course, once I became a mom and began to fathom just how challenging her responsibilities were. Her patience far exceeded my own. She set clear boundaries, but I do not recall her ever raising her voice, even when I crossed them repeatedly. A constant was her reading to me at bedtime, well in to my elementary years, from picture books to Box Car Children mysteries to Alfred Hitchcock. The books I read with my kids differed, Eric Carle, Tolkien, Star Wars, but the wonderful love of reading was gifted to another generation.
We shared in the grief of losing a child, for her, my nine-year-old sister Maureen, for me, our stillborn son Travis. We had to traverse that path once more with my sister Cynthia's cancer proving terminal two and a half years ago. The grief she never really shared about was that of losing her mother when I was a new bride, hundreds of miles away, starting on my adventure as wife and mother, oblivious to inevitably being in her shoes.
Mother transitioned from her maternal role by exploring the world, sometimes literally through traveling, but also by reading voraciously, and availing herself of a kaleidoscope of adult education classes. As an usher for more than twenty-five years at many of Houston's performing arts venues, she had the opportunity to enjoy symphony, ballet, and musicals. I treasure the times that I was in town and got to go with her, especially when she arranged for me to go backstage after Dr. Doolittle, affording me an up close encounter with the costumes and props. She only retired two years ago, keeping so active by always taking the stairs, unless it was more than a few floors.
It was my privilege to spend two months with her last year, advocating for her as we navigated the unfamiliar territory of illness and surgery together. She embodied perseverance and resilience, her sparkle and humor surfacing as strength returned. If she had any pity parties, she invited no guests.
She sparkled through her birthday, basking in the cocoon of love from a steady stream of cards. Just a week beyond it, buoyed with the warmth and love of family and friends, with a favorite, faithful nurse at her side, she stepped in to eternity.
So now I must begin the journey that she never taught me how to start, wondering if there is anything I can possibly do to prepare my kids to face that inevitable day...
What questions will they wish they had asked. I need to ask what they would like to know about me and our family, and start to write it all down. But where to begin?
In memory of Mary Dickinson. 2/23/1930 - 3/1/2016
The flood of memories
And the fountain of tears
Are but a rivulet in the gulf of my heart.
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