Tag Archives: Mother’s Day

Grateful for a creative mother

Rural road.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My late mother was very creative. She expressed it so many ways in the long life that she led. She did so through her versatility as a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, an aunt, a daughter, and an artist.

When Mom died five years ago, Alzheimer’s disease had removed her far from the woman I remember as a youngster and as an adult son. Her eyes no longer had that sparkle of awareness of the beauty she had seen in everyday life, the joy she recreated in her vibrant landscape and still life paintings.

Marian Stambaugh, Mother's Day

Mom.

Those paintings reflected her very being and the beauty she brought to life. Mom painted hundreds, perhaps thousands of renderings, mostly watercolors. But many of those paintings were left unfinished.

Mom was a perfectionist when it came to her paintings. If she felt she couldn’t get it right, she left the picture partially finished, hidden away. Going through her things, the family found stacks of incomplete paintings. To others, the paintings looked fine. Mom only saw the flaws.

Mom was too self-critical when it came to her paintings. She felt they just didn’t measure up to the works of her peers. The attitude of Mom’s dominating father perhaps influenced that lack of confidence at a young age. Mom wanted to go to art school. Instead, she was sent to business school to help her prepare for a job should one be needed.

In those pre-World War II days, women were to work until they married and then raise any and all children that came along. That’s just the way it was, and in many respects, still is in today’s global society.

Our father, himself a controlling man in his own right, saw both Mom’s physical comeliness and the beauty within. He loved almost to a fault this kind, generous, creative woman who was our mother. And he saw her talent in recreating the beauty all around her through her early drawings and paintings.

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Dad must have also sensed Mom’s lack of confidence in revealing this creative side. So Dad encouraged Mom to take private painting lessons given by established, prominent artists, and at the Canton Art Institute.

Thanks to her cohorts and mentors, Mom painted prolifically. Using mostly the medium of watercolor, her still life and landscape scenes were usually vivid, real, inspiring, eye-catching.

Again prodded by Dad, Mom entered art contests. She did so reluctantly, but also successfully. Mom won several awards, including the Peoples’ Choice Award on more than one occasion. Mom modestly accepted the accolades.

Mom’s creativity extended beyond brush and easel. She dressed splendidly but not opulently. She couldn’t afford to do that if she had wanted. Mom simply made do with the wardrobe she had.

wedding photo

Mom and Dad on their wedding day, August 15, 1942. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Stylish wouldn’t begin to describe my mother. Even late in her battle with Alzheimer’s, Mom continued to dress herself, always in a color-coordinated outfit. Residents and staff at the retirement community where she lived her last days often complimented Mom on her stunning look. In her typical modesty, Mom just smiled or returned a pleasant “thank you.”

Mom’s creativity remains alive through her realistic paintings and in our pleasant memories of her loving motherhood. More than that, the artistic genes of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will continue to contribute to life’s magnificence in various means, manner, and places.

Mom’s passion for painting taught us all to appreciate our surroundings, look for the beauty in everything, and generously share that splendor. That is Marian Stambaugh’s legacy of creativity.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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A mother who still watches over me

By Bruce Stambaugh

Though she’s been gone now for four years, my mother still watches over me. I just never know when she will appear.

This isn’t a ghost story. It’s a love story.

Marian Stambaugh, Mother's Day

Mom.

Every now and then, a photo I took of my mother years ago spontaneously pops up on my computer. I never know when it’s going to happen. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to her appearance. Mom’s photo just inexpliciably shows up, and I couldn’t be happier.

I might be surfing the Internet or working on a photo project. I click my laptop’s mouse pad and boom; Mom is smiling away at me from the left side of my computer screen. She looks as elegant as ever, satisfied, happy, her wavy silver hair complimenting her rosy cheeks and her radiant smile.

At first, this sudden appearance spooked me. I can’t explain why her photo appears. But I’m ever so glad that it does. This lovely profile is the way I want to remember her.

There’s a lot of good to recall about Mom. My brothers, sisters and I were fortunate. We had a loving, lovely mother. Not everyone can say that.

Mom was everything a mother should be to her children. That wasn’t always easy either given the different personalities and demands of her five cherubs.

Our catalog of behaviors and misbehaviors revealed the alpha and omega of our mother’s temperament. She was no pushover. But she could be gentle and tender, too.

Even in the midst of the busyness of running an active household, Mom made time for each of us. She once interrupted lunch to dig up a bright red tulip for me to take to my fourth-grade teacher.

Mom knew how to discipline, too. She was firm but fair. But if we went too far, we’d hear the dreaded words, “Wait until you father gets home from work!”

wedding photo

Mom and Dad on their wedding day, August 15, 1942. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Besides her skills as a domestic engineer, Mom was an accomplished artist, an excellent listener, a sports enthusiast, and a much better driver than Dad. She got her license when she was 40.

When I was a senior in high school, I only attended school in the morning due to classroom overcrowding. That meant I was home alone with Mom every school day afternoon. Mom and I had some amazing talks together.

Mom related personal stories I had never heard before, and I doubt she ever told anyone else. That conveyed all I needed to know about her love and trust. She set a high standard for being a parent.

Later in her long life, things changed for Mom. She began to show signs of dementia. The Alzheimer’s prevented Mom from expressing herself they way she wanted.

We could see her frustration in that, and would just sit with her peacefully as she gazed out a window. Nevertheless, Mom still looked sharp in her color-coordinated outfits that she had picked out to wear. Mom never lost her artist’s eye.

smiling mother

Big smile.

That’s why I enjoy it when that photo of her suddenly appears on my computer screen. I pause and remember just how much I miss her, and what a beautiful mother, wife, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend, and neighbor she was to so many.

When that picture of Mom appears, I can hear her reassuring voice say, “It’s all right, Bruce. I’m at peace in my new life.”

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Thanks for still watching over me.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Mother and Daughter

family fun, mother and daughter

Mother and daughter.

When our daughter attempted to take a selfie with her daughter, the six-year-old wouldn’t cooperate. She kept bugging out her eyes. So her mother decided to do something about it. As you can see on the smartphone screen, Carrie pretended to bite Maren in the head. We all had a good laugh.

I remember our daughter causing similar photographic mischief about the same age. I was fortunate to capture this precious moment of family fun.

I thought this photograph of family fun most appropriate for Mother’s Day. “Mother and Daughter” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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A beautiful mother in every way

Miller farm by Bruce Stambaugh

One of my mother’s many watercolors. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

My late mother was a beautiful woman in so many ways.

Her physical features spoke for themselves at every stage of her long life. Reviewing old black and white photos, it was clear Mom was a looker in her early youth, as a young wife and beyond.

Dad used to tell a story about the time his co-workers first saw Mom at a company picnic. They asked Dad, who was lanky with big ears and a protruding nose, if Mom was mad at herself on the day she married him. Dad took that as a compliment.

wedding photo

Mom and Dad on their wedding day, August 15, 1942. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Mom looked especially stunning in the many hats she wore throughout her life. Folks in the retirement community where she and Dad spent their final years always commented favorably on how grand Mom looked in her matching outfits.

Mom’s real beauty was in her heart and soul. Though never an openly affectionate woman, Mom expressed her splendor in the way she lived her life.

Mom generously shared her gifts of kindness, patience, and creativity whenever and wherever she could. If a neighbor was sick, she was at their door with food for the family.

If one of us kids needed something, Mom would often stop what she was doing and helped us. Once I admired a glossy red tulip growing in our flower garden. Mom left the kitchen and carefully dug and potted the flower for me to take to school for my teacher.

When Mom was hospitalized for a few days, the house seemed dark and still. Though we were well cared for, we missed her light and life.

Mom at the retirement home. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Mom at the retirement home. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I’m sure my four siblings each have their own stories to share as well. It took a talented woman to balance her skills of parenting, cleaning, cooking, patching scrapes and dabbing tears.

Mom wasn’t a staid woman either. She couldn’t be with five ornery cherubs tearing around the house.

Believe me, we knew when one of us had crossed the line. The stress we caused her likely contributed to her wavy dark hair prematurely turning snow white. That made her all the more attractive.

Mom helped us with schoolwork, gave us blankets to make tents over the clothesline, and provided cool drinks on hot summer days. She laughed even if our jokes were lame, and cried when things seemed to just unravel.

Her devotion to Dad further evidenced her inner beauty. As controlling and contrary as Dad could be, Mom stood her ground in expressing her opinions. Her love for him, however, never wavered.

Dick Stambaugh, Marian Stambaugh, Bruce Stambaugh, parents

My late parents, Dick and Marian Stambaugh. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I don’t recall him ever saying it, but I think Dad clearly understood that he was one fortunate man in marrying this lovely woman. He always gave her cards, flowers, candy and other gifts on holidays and her birthday.

With Dad’s encouragement, Mom got her driver’s license at age 40. He also coaxed her into taking art lessons, knowing her natural ability to draw and paint.

Mom’s beauty radiated from her mind’s eye into her vibrant watercolor paintings. She won many awards for her still life and landscape representations.

Mom was as humble and classy as Dad was brash and bold. She never boasted about her awards nor charged enough for the paintings she sold. She was happy just to have others enjoy her artwork.

If that isn’t beauty personified, I don’t know what is.

This will be the fourth Mother’s Day without Mom. I can still see her gorgeous smile, and sense her generous love. I hope your mother was just as beautiful as mine.

landscape painting, rural road

Rural road. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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A loving mother’s love lasts forever

familybybrucestambaugh

My brothers and sisters and I, along with other family members, gathered to celebrate Mom’s 90th birthday.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My brothers, sisters and I were extremely fortunate. Our mother cloaked her love in grace and mercy. I wish everyone could say that.

Our late mother loved in so many ways. Compassion was a gift she abundantly shared.

Mom’s calm demeanor didn’t keep her from taking care of business when she had to, however. With five active cherubs on the loose, her hand of justice reached out and touched someone whenever needed. Mom fairly disciplined simply to teach right from wrong.

As was the norm in the post-World War II era, Dad was the family breadwinner. He was an engineer by trade. Mom was an engineer, too, a domestic one, though the proper term back then was housewife. Mom masterfully coordinated all the cooking, cleaning, washing, planning, nursing, and entertaining.

mombybrucestambaugh

Our mother, three months before she died at age 90, always had a smile.

Mom had an uncanny, almost instinctive ability to adapt to many situations. With her five ornery children and one needy husband, it must have been her survival mechanism. Our hyperactive, always on the go father likely had something to do with that.

Dad was the prototypical Type-A personality, joining sporting, civic and church activities that often took him away from home right after he had finished the supper Mom had prepared. Mom seemed to take it in stride.

However, I remember some rather heated discussions occasionally punctuated the night air when us kids were supposed to be fast asleep. Speaking the truth in love was the thread that stitched Mom’s compassionate mantle.

I always admired that spunkiness. It perfectly balanced her more tender side, which was the one she wore so beautifully most often.

I have fond, vivid memories of us kids exploring boxes full of black and white photos that documented our parents’ early years together. I always chuckled at the one with Mom holding a shotgun. Dad claimed he and Mom did go hunting together, and Mom never denied it. But it was just so unlike the mother I remember. She disliked cooking the game Dad brought home.

Mom was always there for us, especially if we were sick. News of the latest mumps outbreak brought back vivid memories for me. I was miserable lying on the couch, covered in a homemade afghan, Mom trying her best to get me to drink and eat something, anything, instinctively knowing my painful discomfort.

And yet, she soldiered on with the rest of her household chores, making sure supper was ready, and everyone had clean clothes for the next day’s activities.

Despite all she had going on, Mom wouldn’t hesitate to stop what she was doing and play catch with us or dig a flower for a teacher or visit a sick neighbor. Mom lived her love.

landscapebyBruceStambaugh

One of the many watercolor landscapes done by Marian Stambaugh

Mom was very artistic, and blossomed into an award-winning watercolor painter. She and Dad even went on annual weeklong art junkets to the mountains of the Carolinas.

When Mom accompanied Dad on special archeology digs, she painted while he dug or hunted for artifacts. One of her landscapes graced the cover of a book. Mom was that good.

Mom’s paintings now adorn the walls of friends, family, and extended family members all across the country. They are beautiful testimonies to her artistic abilities and to the passion that she invested into all her efforts.

Mom lived 90 remarkable years. This is the third Mother’s Day without her. We greatly miss her. Mom’s gracious love lasts not only in our memories and her lovely paintings, but also in our hearts.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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Celebrating a creative mother and sporting father

dadandmombybrucestambaugh

Dick and Marian Stambaugh at their 65th wedding anniversary.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When I was asked to give a talk to volunteers for a local retirement community on April 23, I didn’t hesitate. My mother had died on that day at the nursing home a year ago.

I thought the opportunity more than appropriate to share about how much the volunteers meant to residents like my mother. After all, some in the audience likely delivered needed and appreciated services for my both my mother and father as they finished out their lives.

My assignment was to show some of the many photographs I had taken over the years around Holmes County, Ohio. I offered to include some shots of other places in the world where I had traveled. The organizer said just Holmes County scenes would be fine.
That would be no problem at all. I had thousands of shots from every season from around our bucolic countryside. In some cases, I had photos of the same scene in different seasons, and sometimes from multiple views. I thought that would serve my purpose very well.

colorfulbuggybybrucestambaugh

An Amish buggy crests a hill amid a rainbow of colors in Holmes Co., Ohio.

My aim was to honor my loving mother and gregarious father, not to hype my photographic abilities. Dad had taught my siblings and me to appreciate our environment, to respect nature, and to understand the careful balance between harvesting her resources and preserving the earth’s beauty. Hunting and fishing, along with conservation, had been priorities in his life, especially in his retirement years while he was still able.

Mom, on the other hand, was more reserved but equally adamant about appreciating and sharing nature. She just chose a different venue. Mom skillfully captured her love for God’s good earth on canvas.

shockingscenebybrucestambaugh

A shocking but typical scene in Holmes Co., Ohio.

Mom painted hundreds of landscapes from all around the country, mostly in vivid watercolors. She skillfully replicated scenery as she saw it, and if you were familiar with the local geography, you could often identify the location of the setting. Mom was that good.

Ironically, none of her five children caught the artist’s gene or desire. Mom once patiently tried to teach me to paint. But given my poor efforts, she wisely encouraged me to “paint” with my camera and through my writing. It was sage advice.

muddylanebybrucestambaugh

A long, muddy Amish farm lane in Holmes Co., Ohio.

Mom taught me to have her artist’s eye by understanding perspective and composition through the camera’s lens rather than smearing colors on a canvas. Believe me, smearing was the appropriate verb for my practice runs at watercolors.

On April 23, I complied with the organizer’s wishes. Only three of the 170 shots I shared on screen with the volunteers were from outside the county. To set the tone, the first slide was a picture of Dad and Mom at their 65th wedding anniversary gathering.

Though family members were the only humans shown in my photo presentation that day, I asked those in attendance if they had seen themselves in the slides. Not surprisingly, I got looks of bewilderment.

horsesinsnowbybrucestambaugh

Draft horses on a cold, snowy day in Holmes Co., Ohio.

I told the volunteers gathered that they were the forests and the lilies of the fields, the sparkling brooks and crimson trees in the lives of those at the retirement community. Because of their individual situations, the residents may not be able to express their appreciation for the little things the volunteers did. But speaking from personal experience, they do.

I am certain I am not alone in my gratitude to them for all their good efforts. I also wanted them know how much my folks had blessed me with a rich and rewarding appreciation for the Creation in which we live.

buggyandbloomsbybrucestambaugh
© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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In memory of a beautiful mother

Mom with painting by Bruce Stambaugh

My mother, Marian Stambaugh, with her award-winning painting with the mauve matting, “River Run.” It was painted from a scene near Burnsville, NC.


By Bruce Stambaugh

My mother was a beautiful woman in so many ways.

Mom was a pretty woman to be sure. Yet her graciousness and her colorful paintings revealed her artistic inner beauty. She also modestly disclosed her creativity through her color-coordinated attire.

Mom at 90 by Bruce Stambaugh

Marian Stambaugh just after she turned 90 in June 2011.

Mom died peacefully in her sleep on April 23 after a lengthy trial with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 90.

Though she had lost much of her recall of all things past, Mom still knew who her five children were. She couldn’t always call us by name, but she recognized us. She also lit up when old friends stopped for a visit. Conversation for her, however, was difficult.

My brothers, sisters and I found it intriguing that Mom maintained her pleasant personality throughout her journey with Alzheimer’s. The staff all loved her at both the retirement home, where she lived with Dad before he died in December 2009, and at the nursing home where Mom spent her last year.

Mom was a model resident. She was polite, gracious, kind and asked for little. She didn’t wander, was not a bother to anyone, and maintained her politeness despite her dementia.

In her last days, she had pain, but because of her diminished language skills, was unable to articulate where she hurt. The staff and family could only guess.

At the calling hours and during the funeral, the same descriptive word kept being repeated to define our mother. Beauty. Mom radiated beauty not only in her looks, but in the humble and generous way she lived her life. She was the kind of mother everyone wished for. We were very, very fortunate to have her for so long.

Dad was always very proud of Mom, perhaps even to the point of being a bit overprotective. Early in their marriage, Dad took Mom to a company party. When his male coworkers saw her for the first time, they feigned shock that Dad had such a beautiful wife. They even teased Dad that his wife must have been mad at herself the day they married.
Painting 1 by Bruce Stambaugh
As the preacher at her funeral said, Mom never drew attention to herself. She just drew, and painted. Even when she won awards for her lovely landscapes, Mom would respectfully accept the award, and often declare that some other artist should have won.

Mom also showed her beauty in how she raised her five children in the tumultuous post-World War II era. We had rules to follow, simple household chores to do, and if we didn’t quite respect what should have been done, she judiciously administered a discipline that was appropriate for our age and the offense. She was as fair as she was attractive.

It wasn’t easy to rear five energetic and individualistic children. Since she was a stay-at-home mother, Mom carried the primary responsibility of keeping us clothed, fed, nurtured and behaved. She could have written a book on parenting. Given the beauty of her personality, she probably would have used a pseudonym if she had.
Painting 2 by Bruce Stambaugh
Mom was a wonderful woman, and we will never forget her kindness, gentleness and most of all the exquisiteness she naturally shared in this world through her paintings and her authentic living.

At the funeral, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace about our wonderful mother. It was as if Mom’s gracious, artistic spirit had permeated the service in one last beautiful brush stroke for all to behold.
Painting 3 by Bruce Stambaugh

Painting 4 by Bruce Stambaugh

Painting 5 by Bruce Stambaugh
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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My mom, beautiful in so many ways

By Bruce Stambaugh

My four siblings and I were very fortunate to have the mother we did growing up.

The two decades that followed World War II were some of the most eventful yet tumultuous of the 20th century. However, I don’t remember feeling afraid in our modest household. I think Mom helped us stay focused on the positive aspects of life.

Mom, along with Dad, trusted us. Yes, we had rules, but they weren’t suffocating to us energetic, adventuresome youth. They just kept us connected and safe. We were taught to be polite, seek justice fairly, and to always be honest.

Marian Stambaugh by Bruce Stambaugh

Marian Stambaugh

As was the custom in that era, Dad was the breadwinner and Mom the housewife. Right or wrong, few seemed to question that model until my teenage years. It was just the way it was. I think I found a certain comfort in that daily arrangement.

Mom didn’t smother us, but we saw and sensed her love in how she handled every situation. Besides doing all of the housework, and there was a lot of it with five children and a working husband, Mom somehow managed time for each one of us.

She was there to mend both our scrapes and our clothes. We weren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination. Mom somehow made do with the meager salary Dad earned.

Busy as she was, Mom would always take time to interact with us personally as much as she could. Once, when no other kids were around, I asked Mom to play pitch and catch with me. She dropped what she was doing, found a glove and threw the ball back and forth with me for several minutes in the summer sun. And Mom didn’t throw like a girl either.

When we were ill, Mom was there to comfort us. When we were bad, she knew how to discipline justly and accordingly. I will confess that I always enjoyed watching my brothers and sisters getting the what for. I never did of course.

As a teenager, I felt my relationship with my mother growing stronger, better, yet different. Mom and I would regularly engage in protracted conversations covering a wide range of topics, including stories from her past that I had never heard before. Those were precious moments indeed.

Mom was as wise as she was talented and beautiful. She was smart enough to give us the space and freedom we each needed to find our own way in the world.

Mom was more than a mother and a wife, however. She had a life, too. She learned to drive at age 40.

Mom bowled with her sisters and mother. She was an accomplished artist. Even though she won awards and sold many of her watercolors, Mom seldom was satisfied with her vibrant renderings. I must have gotten my modesty from Mom.

Watercolor by Bruce Stambaugh

One of the many watercolor landscapes painted by Marian Stambaugh

Those snippets of memories can’t compare though to the love my siblings and I still have for her today. Out of necessity, Mom, who will soon be 90, is now the one receiving kindly care.

She is happy. She is still friendly and polite. And I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard others remark about how beautiful a woman she is. She always was, and still is.

The five of us siblings were fortunate to have such a wonderful mother to guide and nurture us. Today we are fortunate to still be able to thank Mom for the many forms of beauty she modeled for us all.

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A Mother’s Day gift from my mother

By Bruce Stambaugh

My mother gave me an early Mother’s Day present this year. I know. It’s supposed to work the other way around.

The gift presented itself in the evening of one of our incredible summer-like spring days we’ve had recently in rural Ohio. I had gone to have supper with Mom at the assisted living facility where she lives.

mom

Marian Stambaugh

After the meal, I pushed Mom’s wheelchair down the hall towards her room. Since it was still nice outside, I asked Mom if she wanted to go out on the porch awhile. I pretty well knew her response would be positive.

We settled on the southwest corner of the wraparound porch. From there, we had a panoramic view of the broad, bucolic valley below. We could see far to the east, south and west. The evening sun was still strong, its breeze just a whisper.

Mom and Dad used to spend as much time together on the porch as they could. From their elevated position high on the hill, they had a lot to take in.

Together they enjoyed watching the progress of the construction of a covered bridge the county erected over a usually gentle stream. They could see Amish farmers mowing hay in the flat, fertile fields on either side of the creek.

They watched the traffic on both the county road that climbed the long hill into the little town of Walnut Creek and on the state route that bypassed both. They preferred the buggies plodding up the step grade to the rumbling trucks on the highway.

With Dad gone now, it was up to us family members and staff to encourage Mom to take advantage of evenings like this. Her Alzheimer’s disease prevented her from even initiating the idea. But if somebody else suggested it, she was all for it as long as the weather cooperated.

This fine evening was downright perfect. Besides the temperature, the earth vividly declared its beauty, much like the many landscapes Mom had painted over the years.

She no longer paints, but her appreciation for both nature and her own natural affinity for appealing colors remain. She still picks out her own clothes to wear each day, and receives many compliments on her color coordination.

Mom hasn’t lost her artistic eye, either. At first, she didn’t say much as she gazed over the vibrant scenery. Eventually, she began to point out the various flowering trees, all at their peek. And she did so in complete, spontaneous sentences, something her disease has greatly diminished in this lovely lady.

Long, comfortable silent spells punctuated our conversing. We listened to bluebirds warble their blissful songs. Cardinals called. Song sparrows sang echoing solos.

Mom asked me what those yellow things were far off in the distance. I asked her if she meant the objects with the silver, pointy tops. She said, “Yes,” as she pointed with her finger. I told her those were corncribs like Uncle Kenny used to have on his farm.

Soon a green four-door sedan, exactly like the car Mom and Dad had before we sold it recently, pulled from the parking lot below us. Mom watched the car travel all the way out the drive.

She turned toward me and instead of saying, “That looks like our car,” Mom surprised me with an even greater upbeat comment. “I wish I could still drive!” she said with a fantastic smile.

For me, Mom’s moment of recognition and effusive expression was an unexpected and unforgettable Mother’s Day gift.

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