Mothers Day Cards

Betsy Shepardson

© Copyright 2020 by Betsy Shepardson

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
                                Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

I was maybe three years sober when I finally reached a point where I could consider buying a Mother’s Day card for my mom. Done enough inventory, looked at my part in the resentments. (plural). Scouring the card racks looking for one that said “Thank you for bringing me to the planet”. Or “Thank you, for trying your best.”  But those Mother’s Day cards, so sappy and sticky, rang nothing short of phoney. I’m sure I settled for one, and I continued to do so, each and every year afterward. Eventually, the sentiments rang more and more true. What changed? Time. Time changes things. We in our continual rush to have more, get more, be more. Be first. Quicker and better than everything and everyone else. There is no race to recover. The best I could be was honest. With myself. And stop practicing that brutality and unforgiveness for my mom.

A depression child, she was. Born in 1922 in Dissautel, WA. A town that no longer exists. To her parents that battled poverty and illness with a pioneering courage that we rarely encounter these days in our rush to get there quick. My grandmother, a midwife, delivered half the babies in Okanogon County. My grandfather, a logger, all 5 feet 2 inches of him. My mom’s greatest hero, her “daddy”. My mom would describe her childhood as happy, contented and loving. She hated the trips to the outhouse in the snow. (The struggle was real, kids...) And she told a story of being caught in a blizzard walking home from school at maybe 6 or 7, and her “Daddy” found and rescued her from being pinned against a fence in the driving snow. She had lost her glasses, and her way, and was frightened beyond frightened, and didn’t get in trouble for losing her very expensive glasses. At 15, she learned to fly a plane out there in Okanogan, flying over the beautiful, empty palouse. On her deathbed she described those flights to me in detail, remembering Delbert her first boyfriend, who taught her to fly, seeing him in her wakeful dreams. That is one of my most cherished memories of my mom, knowing that her entire life, she remembered and kept a meaningful hold of those first love experiences, not just with people, but with places.

Eventually, though, she too, caught the “get there quick” bug; and married at 16. He moved her away from her family, from the Palouse, and from Delbert. She became a mother for the first time at 17. And again at 18. She suffered a case of Bells Palsy during her second pregnancy and went temporarily blind. She cried when she told me of how frightened she was, alone with a toddler and not being able to see. I’ve had an understanding for blindness ever since. Because indeed, the most beautiful thing to behold in this world is for me, the face of a toddler, specifically, mine. Ironically both my mom and stepdad became legally blind in their later years.

And I believe, if I got the story right, my mom became the first licensed woman pilot in Washington State at the age of 20. Because despite her circumstances she didn’t lose her love of flying. She flew in and out of a small airport in Coupeville. (on Whidbey Island). Her flying days were short lived, though, along with that first marriage. Rumor had it, her husband (the father of my brother and my eldest sister) literally had tried to trade her for a car in a poker game. She lived. And died -with that resentment at Dick. Such an appropriate name for that behavior. She remarried not once, twice, but three times more in her lifetime. And the stories honestly seemed to go from bad to worse, until my stepdad came along.

She worked. And told horrendous stories about that. Like the one time she was working at a “Fish House” in Gorst, having to clean up seafood messes in that bar, while pregnant with her third child. She described violently vomiting outside the building --deathly ill from the smell of decaying seafood, and hence; we were never allowed to bring seafood or fish of any kind into her home for our lifetime. The fact that my stepdad taught me to fish, catch & clean and cook and eat fish, was a miracle in itself.

Just before the fish house, she told of how she’d met, fell in love and married a man who was a Navy fighter pilot. She had no children with him. Her ego and pride were smashed to smithereens when she came home from work early one day and discovered him in bed with another pilot. Use your imagination on that one. And I’m sure we can add him to the resentment list for her. Later, when one of her grandsons came out as gay, she was the most proud of his honesty. Go figure. But that marriage began the next string of the story line, with the Navy men in her life.

My grandparents left Eastern Washington and ended up raising most of their grandchildren near the Naval Base in Bremerton. (I wasn’t even an idea, then) and my mother did her fair share of drinking, and carousing and maybe trying to heal from the poker game and the pilot. She worked multiple retail jobs during wartime. She helped her parents, her siblings and her nieces and nephews. I imagined my grandparents home to be a boarding home for multiple kids who’s parents were deployed, or the wives, missing in what was as my mother described “sleep around town time” in the 50’s.

Once more, my mom met the “man of her dreams”. Tall, thin and “looked great in his dress uniform” --The father of my sister. She moved to California where he was stationed with the Navy. Toting along her three children, settling in the town of Richmond, not too far from his duty station at Mare Island. He had long deployments on carriers, China, Japan and the like. Richard Seacrist was rarely home. My mom worked various jobs, a cocktail waitress at a biker bar in El Sobrante, called Capri. She was a retail clerk for Montgomery Ward. Not that it was ever spoken of, but somewhere in that time frame, in 1960 she must’ve had an encounter with someone who is my father. No name. No story. No truth about all of this until I was much older-- actually 2 years after she died (I was 49). We’d played the game in our family of keeping secrets. I would ask. I would be in trouble for asking. We all played the game that Richard was my father. I just didn’t play it very well. And kept asking. All my life. You see, I didn’t look much at all like my siblings. And not at all like Richard. But the illusion was kept, that he was my father. Powerful things, those illusions. And who dared to question?

So when I say it took some years to forgive. To make peace, to understand? I was still living in the illusion. To this moment, I have no idea of who my father is or was. And a Mother was really all that I had. So this Mother’s Day, if you’re struggling with those relationships or can’t find the right card or the open mind or heart? Suffice it to say that Time will heal your spirit. For Time heals all things. Hopes all things. Forgives all things. So that we may truly see those toddler’s faces in all of their precious beauty, and innocence. The beauty of the palouse. Those golden waves. Of hair, of grain, of spirit. And think of all the mother’s you’ve known, you’ve loved. You’ve respected and not. And if you can’t find the perfect card, just wish them, without haste or text message, a most sincere Thank You for bringing you to the planet, where your journey as a spirit, begins, continues and will, eventually, end. So Happy Mother’s Day to you all, near and far. May you be blessed with a glimpse of gold, not from Ben Bridge, but from the gleam of the sun in your toddlers hair, or the bristles of a cholla in the sun, that awakens your spirit to all that is beautiful, just and true. Because without Mothers the journey your Spirit is on, would’ve never occurred.

Betsy Shepardson lives in Tucson Arizona with her husband and her dog, Pretty.  She's a retired multi-disciplinary social worker, who spent most of her life in the Greater Seattle area.  As a person in recovery for most of her adult years, her most treasured possession is the love of her family and 13 grandchildren.  She considers her most valuable experience to be traveled to Standing Rock in 2016 to stand shoulder to shoulder with water protectors.  

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