Concern for a loved one's wellbeing transcends generations
Whether it was concerns about cleanliness or behavior or about safety during teenage years, Mychal Wilmes' mother never stopped showing her love. That care passed on to him and his children.
Mother was stoic when her youngest son complained about unfair treatment. The wrong involved the four-mile ride to the country church. The seating arrangement in the rusting sedan was the cause.
Four adult children squeezed in the backseat and four more were crammed in the front, which could only hold three and one was seated on Mother’s lap. I was the lap sitter, a spot that a 10-year-old felt embarrassed to be in.
Dad said nothing at the wheel while I complained, and Mother reminded me that a person should be thankful for what they have. When she was a young girl, the family took a horse and buggy to church. A rock or two were warmed in the stove so feet wouldn’t freeze, and heavy blankets were insufficient against the cold.
When she married and the family purchased a used Ford, Dad left it to his wife to make sure the car started. When the weather turned bitterly cold, the car was put up on wood blocks and oil heated so that it might start more easily.
History aside, it seemed the past had little to do with the present.
Mother, who made sure that my hair was combed and ears clean before leaving for church, checked again before we settled into the pew. Her handkerchief and hairbrush corrected any flaws.
Even the best behaved can get fidgety during church when the sermon seemed so long.
She had a way to stop misbehavior. An index finger and thumb squeezed against an earlobe was both discreet and exceedingly painful. Mother seldom used the weapon, unless a whispered warning wouldn’t do. She would not tolerate me embarrassing the family.
Dad was more willing to use more forceful discipline on my older brothers, whose offenses were met with a belt. He never used that on me, perhaps because he’d grown older and his temper milder. He slapped me once, which I richly deserved because the gate that I hadn’t closed allowed cows to rampage through his best corn field.
I kept that embarrassment admonition in mind later in life when access to a car kept me out late. Mother never let me leave the house without saying be careful and reminding me that nothing good happens past midnight. A curfew was never imposed but the cows must be milked early in the morning.
Another, and perhaps more important reason for not staying out to late is Mother often waited up for me. Her resting place was a living room chair near where she kept her favorite reading material that included the Bible, other religious writings, and the Reader’s Digest.
I touched her arm to awaken her when the return time neared midnight and her response was almost always “I am worried about you." I was glad that someone cared enough to worry.
The family became only her and I after the rest and married and moved on. Mother never stopped caring and remained what she always was right to the very end, which is why I talk to her when there’s trouble.
I followed in Mother’s footsteps when our children reached driving age. I spent the long minutes seated in a living room chair while anxiously waiting to see the car’s headlights.
Now that I’m older, they are concerned about me. The blue sky recently darkened when I took an ambulance ride to Minneapolis. Not sure what the trouble was, but the hospital staff fitted my chest with a heart monitor. I must wear it for a couple weeks and then mail it back so the doctors can see what’s going on.
Mother certainly wants to know. There’s no need to worry, I told her in much the same way I did when sowing not-so-wild oats.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minnesota, with his wife, Kathy.