I had to have exasperated and been a source of frustration for my Mother more times than not. She would never admit it, but finding out you were pregnant when you were well into your forties had to have been shocking and at least a little unwanted to say the least. She never admitted that to me though and acted like I was nothing but a source of joy. As strange a child as I was, that had to be a Mother’s love speaking!
I always felt different than my much older siblings. They had it all together leading what seemed to me, perfect lives. I was an adult raising six children by the time I was in my early thirties but I always felt so inadequate and immature when I was around especially my two older, beautiful sisters. Everything they did in their home, dress, finances, faith and work seemed perfect. I often wondered why I was so different. One time I heard Mother speaking to someone else and I heard her say “When Mary and Carolyn were little, by gosh, I expected them to be little ladies. By the time Norma came around, I thought, Pffftttt! Kids will be kids!” Aha! I thought. That is why I’m so different! Reading between the lines, I believe she was saying, by that time I was worn out and having a baby at that age was no easy task! I told my sister Mary this story and she so kindly said, “Norma, that may be part of it, but Carolyn and I were teenagers and became adults in the 1950’s. You were a teenager in the 1970’s. It might have been only a couple-of decades, but the changes that happened in those two decades…..it was a whole different world.” And she was right. So that solved the mystery of why I was so different.
It could not have been easy for Mother to see me through my teenage years filled with mini-skirts and social changes. How I must have broken her heart when I broke the news to her and my Dad that I was pregnant at the end of my senior year. She had such hopes for all of her children to attend college. She was unable to because of no money when she was young and to think they would have gladly been able to send me and I threw it away was something I don’t believe she ever got over. Instead, two months after High School graduation, at the age of seventeen I got married. Happily, we beat the statistics and Mark and I raised six children and just celebrated our 43rd anniversary! Even though she was disappointed in me, she supported me fully in anyway I needed her. When I was surprised and not happy about a sixth pregnancy at the age of thirty, already having a nine-month old baby, I hid it from everyone as long as I could. She was the first one I told and she reacted with such joy and excitement. She told me as soon as the baby was here we would know it was the best thing we ever did. She predicted it would be a brother for the nine-month old who was the only boy after four girls. And she was right, on both accounts!
Another way I am sure I perplexed her was in the matter of faith. Mother was a devout Catholic and her Catholic faith was very important to her. I am sure it was a relief when the boy I married was also Catholic. As the years went by, I began to have doubts about my childhood faith, a lot of it brought on by local things happening in our church and the behavior of the local priest. Some of it involved the baptism of my fourth daughter and the extremely unprofessional way it was preformed. When it came time for the next baby to be baptized, I had stopped attending church. Baby Bryan was four months old, no longer a newborn and Mother reminded me how important it was for me to have him baptized. I agreed, so I called a priest at the neighboring town and explained to him what had happened when my last baby was baptized and asked if instead of us having it done in our local church, would he would baptize my baby. He said No, the other Father was his friend and he couldn’t do that. I told him I understood. After a few more weeks, Mother came to my house and gently nudged me to go see the local priest about making arrangements for Bryan to be baptized. She and I did, he invited us in and just as soon as we sat down I told him why we were there, to see about having my baby, who was sitting on my lap, baptized. He looked at me and immediately said, “Well, maybe I don’t want to baptize your baby. Father so-and-so told me you said you don’t like how I baptize babies, that I said Blah-blah-blah instead of saying all of the prayer and I told you to get the kid up here because I was in a hurry.” Which was exactly what he had done when he baptized our daughter Jamie. I believe I stared open-mouthed at him for an instant, trying to take in the magnitude of betrayal I had just been a victim of. He continued on, saying, “I’ll have to think about if I even want to baptize your baby.” I found my voice and stood up so fast the chair crashed to the floor behind me. I pointed my finger at him and said, “Don’t you worry about it, I’ll take care of my own baby!” and out the door I went with my poor Mother close behind. I felt so sorry for her. I felt like she had had the rug pulled out from under her witnessing what had just taken place. I don’t remember our conversation on the way home to my farm but I know as we sat in the driveway she did her best to comfort me. When she needed to go, she laid her hand on my arm and she said, “Don’t you worry about it Norma. You don’t need that church. You just raise your children to love God.”
OH MY! What a gift she gave me! Permission and a blessing from her to go to a different church, one that I believe God used along with Mother’s kindness to draw me close to Him. It was a gift she gave to all of her children. The most important gift of all, a real, genuine faith, not in a certain church but faith in God Himself.