Story by TAMRA BOLTON // May/June 2017
Most women who are mothers look forward to Mother’s Day and the cards, the flowers and visits from children and grandchildren. For others, Mother’s Day is a bittersweet reminder of having lost a loved one. For yet others, it is a time to reflect on what our mothers and grandmothers who are still living mean to us.
Writers are in the habit of internal musings. I asked some of our contemporary authors what they remember about their beloved mothers or to share something special about their mother.
Here are their heart-felt responses.
Jamie Ford: Author of “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” and “Songs of Willow Frost.”
In my first book, “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” the main character has lost his wife to lung cancer. The emotional weight of that scene came from the weeks I spent with my mom while she was in hospice. I describe the process of caring for a loved one who is dying as “trying to steer a plane into a mountain as gently as possible, the crash is imminent; it’s how you spend your time on the way down that counts.”
We had many wonderful moments in those weeks, talking about books and music, about family, laughing about life and the small window of time each of us is given to spend together. So it was no surprise that my next book, “Songs of Willow Frost,” turned out to be the story of a mother and a long-lost child, about love, sacrifice and redemption.
The novel was finished around Mother’s Day, so I couldn’t help but add the inscription: “To my mother, whom I used to call every Sunday night.”
My mom always wanted me to become a writer, so dedicating a book to her was the least I could do to fulfill the hope, the dreams, that she had for me. I couldn’t have done it without her.
Cassandra King: Author of “Queen of Broken Hearts,” “Moonrise” and “The Same Sweet Girls.”
The Mother’s Day I’ll never forget is one each of us will eventually go through — the first one after we lose our mother. I’m the oldest of three sisters. We are close to one another; close to our mother. My sisters and I were inconsolable when our vibrant, energetic mother died at age 70, following a sudden illness.
“I won’t ever leave my girls,” she had promised us.
Mother’s Day hit us so hard that we sisters went away together for a time to honor the woman who had loved us so unconditionally. At sunrise, the three of us walked on the beach, grieving our loss. We wept for our mother, and the lonely years ahead without her.
We must have walked for miles before I glanced over my shoulder and noticed something strange. A lone, majestic pelican was following us. Keeping a safe distance, he paused when we did and turned when we turned. But he never left us.
When we completed our walk and headed back, he kept his vigil, watching over us. I will always believe that pelican was my mother’s final gift to her girls, the ones she will never leave behind.
R.D. Vincent: Author of “The Donbridge Series,” which is based on family stories passed down to him through his grandmother.
For many people, their grandmother is a person in their lives that they only see on holidays, but for me, I would see my grandmother almost every day growing up and even after I was grown, we would talk on the phone at least once a day.
Over the years, I built an amazing relationship with my grandmother. We would attend antique auctions, cook and travel to garage sales. When I had an event she was always there hiding away in the corner to avoid being in any pictures, but would appear when she wanted to take a picture of someone else.
No matter what she was doing or whatever the venue, she always had a story, a tale or advice to give. She believed that if you believe, truly believe with all of your heart, that you can move mountains.
Every Mother’s Day, I would travel to the local greenhouse and look for about an hour for the largest hanging basket I could find, one I knew she would like. When I would bring it to her, her words were always the same. “You didn’t have to do that, save your money” she would protest, smiling all the while.
This past fall, my grandmother passed away and it was truly the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my adult life. During the first week she was gone, I called her phone each night as I always did. The phone rang and rang as I whispered under my breath “please pick up, I believe, I believe,” but no one answered. I soon realized she was not only my grandmother, but she was also my best friend.
Traveling home for the funeral, I learned from folks in my family that for as much as she loved talking to me, she wanted me to find someone to share my life with. Before she passed, this hope of hers came true and my grandmother met the woman who would soon be my wife and unknown to me would be her “replacement.” In her mind, her work was done and everyone in the family was where they should be and all was at peace.
As I reflect on this year’s Mother’s Day, I will go to the local greenhouse. I will not be buying a hanging basket for my grandmother. I will be buying one for my wife. A woman my grandmother felt so highly of that she could leave his world knowing that her best friend and grandson would be loved by her for the rest of his life.
This is the dedication Vincent included in the book he was working on when his grandmother died.
I know in my heart you are reading this. Please know that I miss you every day and that you have made me a stronger wiser person and your knowledge, wisdom and advice will live on not only in me, but for many future generations to come.
Bill Dedman: Pulitzer prize-winning writer for Newsday and co-author of “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark.”
It’s easy to lose track of your former teachers, even one who lived next door to the high school. This Mother’s Day, my mother will receive a stack of surprising cards and memories from her former students.
On Facebook, I reached out to a group of former students from Red Bank High School, outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, where Mom taught typing and accounting for 30 years. At 87, Mom recently moved into an assisted-living apartment and had to give up her house next to the old school grounds — the school has been torn down, replaced by a new one, and now her house has been sold.
Mom enjoys telling stories, playing bridge and joining in book club discussions. Although she’s on Facebook, she’s not using her computer much anymore, with failing eyesight. But she loves to have visitors or to receive cards. The response was overwhelming, with hundreds of comments, cards, and letters from former students.
Here are a few of the memories sent to Mrs. Dedman, the caring-but-fierce teacher of typing:
“I wouldn’t be anywhere without this lady and her fierce way of teaching typing. Thank you, Mrs. Dedman, for the skill that had led me throughout my adult life.” —Jerami Anne Hawkins
“Never thought her typing class would help me out so much in the future. Tell her I said thank you!!!!” — David Tallent
“I soooo wish we still had teachers like her. I was blessed by her and learned to do my best to make it ‘exactly, exactly right.’ My kids are not so fortunate. Love, hugs and prayers to her!” — Melanie Burchfield Griffey
“I still think of her often! I remember her covering our hands with paper while we type, saying, ‘There and back, there and back.’” — Michelle Head
“Love her. No chicken peckin’ here!!! She was the real deal, cared for all her students!” — Tina Elders-Askins
“She invited our class to her home for refreshments.” — Melanie Goins
“Such a wonderful teacher! I was horrible at typing … but she didn’t fail me!” —Patricia Mason Geer
“I love Mrs. Dedman!!! Yes, I was one of her problem kids that needed the paper over my hands so I didn’t look at the keys. I would not be where I am today working for a president of a global company without her dedication and never giving up on me. I hope we have made you proud.” — Amy Thompson Allen
“I didn’t take typing because I didn’t intend to ever be a secretary. Boy, do I look silly now!” — Susan Hardy McLeod