This past weekend I lit a Yahrtzeit candle in memory of the 20th anniversary of my mother's death. Looking through the file I pull out this time of year to reminisce, I found a piece I wrote in the middle of the night almost 20 years ago. Amazingly, it still is true and timely so I thought I'd share.
August 2, 1990
My mother, Lillian Kneip Israel, died this spring at the age of 67 after a lengthy and courageous battle against stomach cancer. My family watched this gentle, yet robust, woman waste away until she looked like a Holocaust victim. After the suffering, her death seemed merciful. But, I miss her.
I am rapidly approaching my thirty-fourth birthday and have realized my mother was 34 years old when I was born. The youngest of five children, all girls, I came into this world at the Ellsworth Air Force Base Hospital outside of Rapid City, South Dakota. Recently I traveled to that area with my husband and our two daughters. We tried to see the hospital "where mommy was born," but we were not allowed on Base. I no longer possessed the magical I.D. card and was denied admittance.
This incident caused me to think about the differences between my mother's life and mine. I choose a life with little connection to the military. In fact, I'm not even sure I believe in the military. My mother married my father in 1942 while he was in the service. It was a different world then; right and wrong seemed clearly defined. My mother chose to devote herself to raising the five of us, taking care of my father and managing the household. She seemed completely satisfied with her chosen role.
I, on the other hand, have spent much of my life fighting against the very roles my parents lived. Now, with my own family, I wage a constant battle against slipping into the role of homemaker. I am continually working on some worthwhile project and I can't, for the life of me, understand how my mother remained happy in her role.
How I envy that ability. She knew the secret of wanting only what she had. Or if she did have hidden desires, she never gave voice to them. I am always slightly, if not radically, dissatisfied. I want to change the world. Personally, I strive for balance between mothering and my work. It seems as if I'm always just a step away from that elusive point of balance. How I long for the "rightness" my mother possessed.
But I am from a different generation than my mother. We live on a planet in peril; we live in radical times. Old patterns and strict roles are not necessarily the best tools at this point in history. I am working to create a sustainable future for my children and the generations to come. My mother would have applauded my efforts.
Eventually, I hope I will come into the legacy of calm my mother left to me. Perhaps someday "balance" will be where I am and not just what I am striving for. I love you, Mom.
I am now past 50 years of age and am finally learning to truly appreciate what I have. Balance continues to be somewhat elusive, but perhaps that's just a byproduct of the 21st Century. My sisters and I still cannot believe Mom has been gone for such a long stretch of time. Almost daily, we find ourselves picking up the phone to talk to the amazing woman who was our mother. She still has a loving grip on our hearts and always will. Thanks for being who you were, Mom.