Tag Archives: Mothers

March 22 – Food Wars

by Gretchen Staebler

cherry-tomatoes-1381533938Tr5 (1) (600x450)

I return home from my small-town escape to the closest city for yoga, grocery shopping, the Farmers’ Market for fruit and a sweet treat for Mama’s breakfast, and Trader Joe’s to stock up on medicinal wine. It’s a weekly outing that keeps me sane. As I leave Olympia, I round the bend toward the I-5 exchange and as it does every time, Mt. Rainier reaches into my throat and grabs my breath away. For this, I moved across the country to care for my mother. I’m about to appreciate the reminder.

I unload the car and take my purchases into the kitchen where Mama is hovering in the room that was always hers alone. I am still the child at my mother’s knee here. I get daily instructions on how to load the dishwasher, proper placement of the can opener in the drawer, and the best way to wipe up spills on the floor.

“I went to the Farmers’ Market,” I tell her, proud of my purchases, back to trying to please my mother, like I’m 15, not 60.

“Did you get any good vegetables?” she asks, ignoring what I did get.

I breathe deeply, and with measured calmness say, “No, you went to the produce stand yesterday; I didn’t think we needed anything.”

Mama gasps, “You didn’t look for tomatoes? Always look for ‘good’ tomatoes!” I roll my eyes, which her lousy vision prevents her from seeing, but say nothing.

I put away the groceries, then feed my cat and return to the kitchen.

While not cooking the dinner I had planned because she says she doesn’t think she should eat pasta today, I ask: “Where did these grape tomatoes on the counter come from?”

“The produce stand yesterday.”

“There are also grape tomatoes in the refrigerator,” I say, irritated that things go to waste because she and her paid caregiver buy duplicates.

Mama looks at them and gasps in disgust: “They are from…Safeway!”

Throwing the box–literally–into the back of the refrigerator, I explode, “Oh, for gawd’s sake!” Not letting it go, I add, “And here is a big tomato that is going bad.” I take it from the refrigerator and put it on the counter, resisting the urge to slam it. A few minutes later, Mama picks it up.

“What’s wrong with this tomato?”

“I just said it needs to be eaten. It has some bad spots,” I spit.

As I finish plating dinner, she says, “I’m going to eat this tomato you were going to throw away.”

“I wasn’t going to throw it away.”

“You said you were.”

“No, I did not say that. I just said there are tomatoes that need to be eaten. And you chastised me for not getting more.”

“I didn’t say that.”

I want to scream, but I breathe deeply and respond with Buddhist calm: “You said I should have gotten some at the Farmers’ Market.”

“Oh,” says Mama, “I guess I remember saying that.”

I will lose my mind.

Gretchen Staebler is a Pacific Northwest native, transplanted to the Southeast and back again 36 years later. She blogs at www.daughteronduty.wordpress.com about the education, frustration, and occasional humor of living for nearly four years with her almost 100-year-old mother, and the déją vu of living in her childhood home. Hopefully without losing her mind.


January 5 – The Move

by Letty Watt


“Sometimes I prayed with every breath that my children would grow up healthy, and sometimes I prayed that we just had enough food to feed five hungry mouths. When we had more than enough I thought it was a miracle.”

My 91-year-old mother-in-law, Alleen, paused. “I don’t remember a time when I didn’t pray for a miracle in those years. Oh, Lord! And most of the time He answered.”

“Alleen, sometimes I prayed so hard for Katy and the boys that I was afraid I’d use up all my angel requests but I didn’t always recognize when God answered my prayers,” I replied, as we avoided the subject of her impending move to assisted living at Arbor House.

“But, oh Lord, I’ve prayed at night and prayed at day that the Lord let me stay at home and not have to move. I’ve lived here 60 years. You can’t make me move. This is all I know. I’m healthy. I can take care of myself. Why can’t I stay?”

This conversation we’ve had nearly every day for six months when we turn the discussion to assisted living. Now we are making the move.

“Alleen, I’ve been praying too. . .”

Alleen cut off my words. “But you are praying that I go and I’m praying that I stay. That can’t be good.”

For a while it was quiet between us as we drove to Arbor House and the new apartment that she’d soon call home. Then I began to think about God and how tormented he must be when people pray opposite prayers.

The street light turned red and I turned to her and said: “My experience is that God answers my prayers with his guidance, meaning I don’t always get what I pray for, but I do receive what I need.”

At that moment I was merely praying for strength and love to help her make this move.

At Arbor House I put the car in park and she mournfully turned her head to me and spoke: “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”

“Alleen, we (all of your children) only want the best for you. You are lonely and scared in your home and are afraid to cook. Please give this a chance. You might really like your new apartment,” I pleaded.

“I don’t see how I can.”

Then she put out her bottom lip and dropped her head in resignation. My heart sank even lower and I asked myself: Whatever have we done?

Letty is a writer by winter and golfer by summer and last year she become a mover. The first move was her daughter, hers came second, her son came third, and before the year ended she moved her mother-in-law to assisted living. She is looking forward to the adventures of 2015 and more stories to tell.

June 3 – Not a Good Day to Die

by Judy Watters

I love Thursdays with my sister, Virginia, and my 93-year old mom. I drive the 35 miles to be there by 8:15 a.m. and always find them just waking. We spend two hours over coffee and toast. At 11:00, I help Mom shower then I set her hair in pink curlers, so she can be pretty for her Bible College class that night. By then, it’s time for lunch.

The entire morning, we chatter non-stop about everything–loved ones, church, world and local news, and even politics. Virginia’s husband stays just long enough to eat, then for some unknown reason, he disappears and leaves us to our day.

This past Thursday our conversation took a strange twist. It went like this:

Mom: I felt so good when I woke up this morning. Not one pain. You know, I read somewhere that people feel good three days before they die.

Me: Really? I never heard that. Let’s see. Today is Thursday; three days from now is Sunday. That’s not a good day, Mom. You wouldn’t want to disrupt church services.

Mom: Are you sure it’s Sunday? I thought it was Saturday.

Virginia: Wait…(She gets her calendar off the pantry door. With Virginia, if it’s not on the calendar, then it wasn’t planned in advance, and therefore, a huge disruption to her schedule.)
Mom, you know Sunday is a busy day around here with choir practice and the kids going to youth group. That’s not going to work.

Me: Then there’s the memorial service to plan. If you die on Sunday, memorial would be Wednesday, and remember, Thursday is my day with you, not Wednesday.

Mom: Oh, I hadn’t thought that far in advance. But I don’t want any memorial where people gawk at me and say how good I look. I’ll be dead; how good can that be?

Me: No memorial? Memorials are for the living; you have so many friends.

Mom: My good friends will understand.

Me: You’ll need to be transported to Pennsylvania for burial. Plane tickets are very expensive if you don’t schedule 2 weeks in advance. Larry and I can’t pay full price right now.

Mom: Well, no one needs to make that trip. Just have the funeral home pick me up in Elmira; they’ll take me from there.

Virginia: We really want to go with you; you will just have to wait. Let’s see what July or August looks like. (She turns the pages of the calendar.)

Me: Mom,we’re really tight this year. Now that I’m retired, we’re down to one income. I don’t think we can swing it at all this year. Next year might look better. You’ll just have to put off dying for a while.

Mom (with her usual sweet smile): Oh, okay.

End of subject.

Have you ever had a serious talk with a loved one that turned as silly as our talk did? Write it down. It will make great reading for your generations to come.

Judy-3-212x300In May 2013, Judy Sheer Watters published her first memoir, The Road Home: The Legacy that was, is, and is to Come. Her blog encourages women to write their stories. Judy teaches legacy writing classes, facilitates Hill Country Christian Writers, and Hill Country Bloggers in Bulverde, Texas. She and her husband have three grown children and one dog.

May 10 – How Did I Get To Age 100?

by Patricia Roop Hollinger


“I have no aspirations to live to be 100,” my mother has stated on many occasions. However, despite her protestations against becoming a centenarian her family celebrated her 100th birthday June of 2013.

The actual date was July 12th, but June suited children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren for the gathering since it required a three-hour drive 81S to Bridgewater, Virginia; the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.

You do not attempt to surprise someone at age 100. Besides, the surprise of a sister arriving from Florida for her 80th birthday had been sufficient in the realm of surprises.

She took the stage and recited a poem by memory that she had learned in grade school. Elocution was distinct and clear. She didn’t miss a beat. We all just listened and wondered in awe, “What poem would we be sharing at age 100 and without notes?”

My mother, Olive Virginia Main Roop. was born on a farm homestead July 12, 1913 in Union Bridge, MD–the homestead where my older sister and I were also born. Her mother was Edith Roop Main and so my parents were second or third cousins. This bids the question, “Might I be my own Grandma?”

Olive (Mom) lives in her own apartment at Bridgewater Village Retirement Community. Being a farmer’s wife, a primary occupation was that of preparing three hearty meals daily for family, threshers, and any farm hands enlisted. Egg custard, apple crisp, baked bread and always a healthy salad was served up for guests whether they are hungry or not.

Olive and Roger (her husband of 70 years) also were movers and shakers when it came to their passion for making this world a safer, more peaceful place to inhabit. After World War II (1944-48) what now known as Heifer International began on our farm as Heifer Project.

Their vision was that if heifers were shipped to war-torn Europe, families could restock lost cattle and provide fresh milk for their children instead of the powdered version. Of course, the stipulation was that when that heifer had her first female offspring it must be passed on to another family.

This required endless hours of cattle coming and going to our farm. There were no days off. Meals were prepared in the middle of the night if that is when the cattle arrived.

Roger died May 8, 2001 at the age of 91. Mom says, “He was the love of my life.”

Loneliness set in and a widower in our church began to seek out her company.

“What would people think?” she wondered.

That is no longer a concern for she and John, age 92, have been companions for the past 13 years. Her children celebrate their friendship for it has enhanced both their lives.

Viva 100 Mom!

Patricia is the middle daughter born to Roger and Olive in 1939. She can’t imagine NOT being raised on a farm where she could ponder the wonders of life. She is an avid reader, musician, gardener, and retired Chaplain/Pastoral Counselor/LCPC who is now in pursuit of writing her own words.

January 18 – Righteously Pissed Off

by Patricia Roop Hollinger


“Mrs. Bubel just take your son home and wait for him to die.”

These are the words that resonated in my ears as yet another M.D. gave me this advice. Stephen was born at Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas in August of 1965. He weighed 4 lbs. 8 oz. The diagnosis was Cytomegalic Inclusion Disease–a viral infection contracted by the mother in the first trimester of pregnancy.

On January 6, 2014 there was yet another meeting with staff members regarding the state of Stephen Bubel’s care, or lack thereof. For you see, Stephen did not die as predicted. His 24/7 care led me to call one of those M.D.’s in desperation.

“Dr. Dutton,” I said, “I need help before either Stephen or myself winds up in an institution.”

My plea was heeded and help was provided.  Stephen has lived in an institutional setting ever since. Caring for the Stephen’s of the world does not pay well and is never-ending. Care has ranged from being first class to benign neglect.

“So….what are Stephen’s strengths?” the coordinator asked.

“We have been over this every year,” I said in protest. “Can’t you see that his wheelchair has no footrest…he is unshaven….his hygiene sucks…and you want to know what his strengths are? I want to know when his daily needs are met. Fuck your damn forms.”

Yes, I was “righteously pissed off.”

Another meeting of the minds and words is scheduled for February 10th. I am once again hopeful that his basic needs will be attended to as they have been intermittently over his 48 years. Stephen is unable to walk, talk, or take care of bodily needs unless his mother does become “righteously pissed off.”

Patricia Roop (Bubel) Hollinger was the mother of Michael Bubel who died in 2009 and Stephen Bubel, age 48. She is an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, and LCPC by profession. She is also a cat lover, a voracious reader lover of words, gardener, bird-watcher, and she plays piano and organ. Pat married her high school heartthrob in 2010 after the death of her second husband.

December 1 – I Hear Your Voice

by Khadijah

autmn owd

I haven’t forgotten the sound of your voice any more than I have forgotten the sound of my mother’s heartbeat when I rested my head against her chest during cold Wisconsin nights.

I haven’t forgotten the sound of your voice any more than I have forgotten the sound of the wind shuffling its feet through kaleidoscope colored leaves in the Kickapoo Valley.

I haven’t forgotten the sound of your voice any more than I have forgotten the sound of my breath exhaled in cold clouds of wishes half-formed.

“Assalamu Aleikum.

Ummi? Is that you?

Assalamu Aleikum?”

Yes, it’s me, it’s me here listening and waiting, thinking and planning, hoping and striving. Yes, it’s me, still holding you as close as ever I did those hours spent each evening going over the blessings of the day and looking forward to what we would do on the next. Yes, it’s me, pulling you still in your little red wagon with your name painted on the side, full of books and stuffed animals and the Cheetos truck you wouldn’t let go of. Yes it’s me, sitting in the swing on Grandma and Grandpa’s porch, holding hands, looking at the stars, never imagining I would be a world apart from you, my little blonde whirlwind.

Yes, it’s me.

Just a few words, a few seconds of peace snatched out of a world that is increasingly chaotic.

All of the words I had stored up in a full heart, behind closed lips for weeks suddenly change form, becoming tears that refuse to be held back, tears of love and joy and loss and patience and pain for you, for me, for what has been and what may be.

I cannot speak, but I can hear, and I hear your voice as it always was, reciting Qur’aan all day long, no matter what you were doing.

I cannot speak, but I can hear, and I hear your voice as it always was, asking questions that made me think with my head as well as my heart.

I cannot speak, but I can hear, and I hear your voice as it always was, before.

Your voice and the wind blend together, and I hear the cry of the child that has become the man.

Khadijah is still trying to adjust to life in the States after almost ten years in Yemen. She is a writer, translator, teacher, herbalist, fiber artist, and homeschooling mother to her eight children. Her oldest, Mujaahid, is in a village under siege in northern Yemen with his wife and children.

October 25 – Hand Woven

by Khadijah

hands (640x427)

Been thinking a lot about my mother lately, hard to believe she’s been gone so many years. It seems like yesterday, last week, a month ago at most I midnight called her knowing she would be awake, playing solitaire at the kitchen table we spent so many hours eating, laughing, talking around. Can it really be nineteen years since I last heard her voice, me truly still a child despite having a child of my own, thinking she would be there for me forever- no not forever, but for a very long time and then-

she wasn’t.

In a split second lives change, people come and go, stand tall and fold, circumstances turn upside down so you can hardly recognize them anymore except maybe with the feeling of a vision almost grasped but not quite, deja vu but really, when you were there the mountains actually reached towards the sky but now you see only their reflection in a clear blue mountain lake.

Even now I reach for the phone to call her, talk about days and dreams and how did you do this help me figure it out so I don’t fall down again? For my mama, I do miss her, mash’Allaah.

Buried 1

Hand Woven

She was there when he was born

Hot blood gushing amidst tears and silence

Thankfully not hers.

No platitudes or empty prayers,

Simply support and a hand held tight.

Her life was built on courage

Dreams spilling from hurt and shame

Hers to hold alone…

Strength of spirit and hope

Bound with doubt of self.

I was late life born from late love

Child running through grown up lands

Fire to her cool calm…

Striving, spinning dreams

From photos creased with wear.

“Say, um…mom died…”

Words crackle through stormy night

Dad cried…

After first sorrow, I searched

For her in me.

I hear her whisper now as

Memories slip through soft shadows

My dreams and hers…

Braided, woven tight

Hands upon my heart.

Khadijah is still trying to adjust to life in the States after almost ten years in Yemen. She is a writer, translator, teacher, herbalist, fiber artist, and homeschooling mother to her eight children. She blogs at Yemeni Journey and Wide Earth.