Mother’s Day is a bittersweet day for me these days. I lost my mother the day after Christmas in 2005. Today my father and I placed Mom’s favorite red roses on her grave just as we have done every year since she has passed. As the youngest of four children, I probably got the opportunity to spend the most one-on-one time with my Mom…and I consider myself pretty lucky because of the privilege.
My mother was born Betty Jean Tannahill on 5 October 1941 to Oliver Richard Tannahill and Capitola Ester Friddle. Mom was the youngest of two children…she had an older sister named Joan. Mom’s family lived right next door to her grandparents and many of her stories of her childhood include many stories of her beloved “Mom & Pop Friddle.” Mom lost her father, Richard, in a hunting accident in 1947 and Mom’s life was forever changed. She had few clear memories of her father – but as she grew up and met others who had known her father, she was always told that he was good man. I think she always found comfort in that. About a year later, her mother remarried to Gwen Shearer. Gwen was Richard’s best friend as well as business partner. I have often thought how difficult it had to be for my grandmother in 1948 to be a businesswoman, widowed and with two young children. Joan and my mother spent a lot of time growing up going to piano lessons and both girls were musically talented. Mom used to say that they could always get out of doing dishes by going in and practicing their piano. My grandmother could play the piano but she wasn’t a musician…there is a big difference. Both of her daughters were musicians. My mother met my father towards the end of her senior year and by the next October; they were engaged to be married – they married in December of 1959.
I have always believed that I really had a wonderful childhood. There were a lot of camping trips, picnics, and family time. Mom would pack up the camper or tents and when Dad came home from work, he would take a shower and off we would go camping. When Dad was working, Mom would take us each week to the library. Each one of us would get our selection of books and when we got home the TV never was turned on. Each one of us would be in our little corner of the living room reading our books. I can remember putting together crossword puzzles at the kitchen table and playing games with my siblings and their friends with my Mom right in the middle of the activity.
Mom organized trips that we took as a family to places like Yellowstone, Glacier Park and the Redwoods. One of our most amazing trips was the one where we traveled around the United States for a month when I was eleven years old. We traveled around in a Pickup and Camper and covered 40 states in a month’s times. From the Mt Rushmore and the Badlands to Gettysburg, Mount Vernon, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Savannah, and Disney World to New Orleans – we saw a lot of our country. You might say that she helped me gain my love of history.
What really makes all of this really amazing is the fact that Mom battled health problems for most of her life, but she never really let it stop her or stop her from enjoying her family. It would be easy to dwell on some of the hardships that she faced…but Mom always kept a positive attitude even to her last days. Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer for a second time in December of 2005 and she died only four days after the official diagnosis. In those four days, we had time to celebrate Christmas and Mom was determined to make the most of it. She gave every bit of energy she had to take the opportunity to enjoy her family and the celebrations. The day after Christmas, she left us.
I have wonderful memories of my mother – I wish everyone was so fortunate with their parents. My mother lost her mother when she was 45 years old and she told me before she died that she still missed her mother. It had been almost 20 years, but she felt the loss. Last year my father and his sisters were all together for Mother's day with their mother and she passed this past December. I suspect that if we are so lucky to have a wonderful mother that we always miss them and feel their loss.