September marks one year since my mother’s death. There is no prettier month, none more poignant, than September, when the plants begin to shut down and prepare for winter. The irrigated fields are a deep lustrous green, but all is edged in gold as the grasses cure off, the goldenrod, rabbit brush, and sunflowers bloom. September is a month of mourning summer’s passing, and now it mourns for my mother as well.
After Mom died we found a photo of my folks as young lovers. There is such joy in their faces. Dad, with his signature tilt to his cowboy hat, wraps his arms around Mom; she leans into his chest, her dark hair brushing his face. He has a flower in the buttonhole on his shirt, obviously stationed there by my mother. They look so young!
As they raised a family, Dad wasn’t very demonstrative towards Mom. Though we kids got regular hugs from him, she had to make a pest of herself to get any affection. She would discreetly grab him in the kitchen as we were watching TV around the corner. He would grimace and pretend he didn’t like it. But, oh the love they shared.
Even late in life when Mom was failing, often confused and disoriented, she would say how lucky she was, and how Dad was the perfect man. In turn, Dad has conveniently forgotten there was anything wrong with Mom. He remembers her as perfect, which was how they treated each other their whole married lives.
When I was a child I slept across the hallway from my parents. I remember their quiet murmuring in the darkness and the loud smack of their goodnight kiss. Never doubting the love of your parents is a gift to children, one we took for granted of course. Never witnessing an argument or having to endure criticism from one to the other was a great comfort and joy.
Every day I practice the lessons Mom taught me (key word, practice, meaning I’m still working at it). Finish any job you start and do your best. Keep your word. Do what you love. But the most important lesson was to love your spouse – love being a verb.