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  • Archive for May, 2010

    Cheer up Chicken…

    2010 - 05.09

    My Mom…

    My mom, Beryl Maude Graham, was born 87 years ago in Brighton, Sussex.

    She was ill as a child and was in the hospital for several years. They did not expect her to live. However, her indomitable will was stronger than the illness, the excepted cruelty of the hospital nurses, and the inhumane rules regarding visitation from her family.

    When she was 17 she weighed 82 lbs. She worked in a pet shop, drove a horse drawn bread wagon, and lifted as much weight as the men who worked with her.  She married a French Canadian soldier during World War 11. He was killed when his tank drove across a mine field. She had just given birth to a daughter; breech birth during a blackout bomb raid. She has many stories of bombs, powdered eggs, food rations, and hardship. Underneath all the stories is the pulse of courage and grace.

    She packed up her new born baby, my oldest sister, and immigrated to French Canada, Quebec. The family of her young soldier husband didn’t want her. She didn’t speak their language and wasn’t accepted as their son’s bride. She was 20 years old. During a visit to New York she met my Dad. When they were married my Mom began the lifelong task of raising him. We, the three girls, were the by-products of Dad’s zest for life. Mom was enormously patient, kind, loving, and strong willed and still is. Dad thought he was the boss…We all knew the truth. Deep down, so did he.

    We grew and we grew. My oldest sister is 12 years older than me. Mom had nine miscarriages and one tubal pregnancy. My egg came from her one good fallopian tube.

    My middle sister is 5 years older than me. I am Mom’s youngest child, and maybe the biggest pain the ass. OK…My oldest sister was a bit of a pain in the ass as well. Middle sister was almost perfect. Almost…

    I was a tad bit defiant. OK…Maybe I was a rebel; Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. But sex is natural, rock and roll is a lifestyle, and drugs were experimental. I still have sex, still sing rock and roll, and left the drugs behind 35 years ago.

    When we were young and experiencing growing pains and difficult moments, Mom would hold us and say “cheer up chicken, it’s only forever”. What is a moment of pain inside eternity?  If we suffered heartbreak and emotional aches she would tell us to “pull up our socks”, get busy, scrub the floors, do the dishes, purge the pain… It always worked; we always came out stronger.

    My dad passed a couple of weeks before their 40th wedding anniversary. Mom was 65.

    The definition of herself began to alter. She was now one half left of a whole. We, her daughters, were terrified she would leave us as well. Always our example of strength and courage, what would we do if she was gone? We missed our dad terribly, but Mom has always been the person who defined us, and from that definition each of us grew into the women we would become. The ones we are now.

    In the past 10 years Mom has had surgery on the arteries in her legs from ankle to groin, fell and shattered her pelvis, fell and broke her hip. She has heart issues, blood pressure issues, gastro-intestinal issues, and eye problems, but she still works in her garden eight hours a day, sews and quilts, reads five books a week, and cooks her grown-up grandkids favorite food. Today when I called her to say Happy Mother’s Day, she asked if I was behaving myself. I answered “of course I am”. She said “Beverly, you are speaking to your mother”…

    On this Mother’s Day, what I want you to know Mom, is that you have always been an example for me of courage, humor, audacity, and humility. Lately you have also been an example on how to get away with being a pain in the ass.  I might not make 87 so I am going to put this into practice now. Although you did it with quiet grace, you taught me how to be full of “piss and vinegar”. My husband and children have you to thank that I grew to be tolerant, compassionate, generous, strong-willed (another word for stubborn) and competent. They can thank Dad for the incorrigible, sneaky, part.

    I love you Mom, thank you for my life.

    “Cheer up chicken, it is only forever

    Tomorrow is gonna be another day

    I don’t want to hear you ever say never,

    Cheer up Chicken, that’s what Mama would say.

    Cheer up chicken that’s what Mama would say”