Tribute to Mom
Sept. 9, 2006
I want to organize these
remarks around three things about Mom: loneliness, encouragement
I believe Mom was profoundly lonely. She was brought up in a
family of girls but she married a guy who didn't talk much, at least to
her. Then she kept having boys and we were a handful. And
Dad seemed to always be away. He worked all day, of course, then
in his earlier days he played baseball in the spring and summer and
basketball in the winter. This took many evenings and
weekends. Then he joined the Wolcott Fire Department and the
Wolcott Police Force. And these involvements took him away a
lot. So, especially as a young mother with rambunctious boys, she
Among other things, this
loneliness pushed her to consider and even plan suicide. At some
point in 1936, then, when I was four and Bob two, she was out the door
on her way down to the brook behind our house to finish herself
off. But she turned back and reread a letter from her cousin Enid
Forsberg, a missionary in the Sudan, in which Enid outlined the plan of
salvation. Mom accepted Christ at that point and was never the
same again. So, at least partially out of her loneliness and
disappointment, she poured herself into us boys and eventually into
lots of other young people, followed as she got older by giving herself
to older people as well.
As I got older, she shared a
lot of herself with me. I don't remember her ever complaining
about Dad but she welcomed my listening ear even though as a man I
probably didn't talk to her as much as she might have liked. And
Dad eventually got better at spending time with her even though I don't
think he ever got to meet her expectations when it came to talking.
Mom became an encourager. She encouraged us boys and Sharon when
she came along. She encouraged the young people she worked with
and the older ones too. We always knew that she wanted us to be
and do whatever we wanted to be and do with one proviso -- that we come
into a relationship with Jesus Christ and in whatever way we chose to
Once she came to Christ, her
main objective was to encourage Bob and me to come to Him as
well. But I don't think she was sure how to do this.
Someone told her, however, that the way to bring us to faith was to
send us to camp. So she sent us to a YMCA camp but that didn't
work. Then she sent us to a liberal church camp. That
didn't work either. But when I was 12 and Bob 10, she got the
right camp and we both made decisions for Christ at Camp Pineridge in
Rumney, New Hampshire.
Though, as mentioned, she
started to confide in me as I got into my teenage years, she encouraged
me to go away to college even though this meant her losing me to talk
to. I remember someone saying to her before I left for college,
"I hear you're losing a son." Her reply was a sharp, "What do you
think I want him to do, stay around here and be a pantywaist the rest
of his life?" I knew that though she dearly wanted me to stick
around and be a support for her, she wanted more that I go on and
become whatever God wanted me to be.
We knew from high school
days that both Mom and Dad felt they had been cheated out of going on
to school beyond high school. For Mom it was a health problem
that caused her to scrap her training program to become a nurse.
For Dad, it was a high school grade that kept him from receiving an
athletic scholarship. But because they were denied, we knew that
we could go on in school at their expense. Dad even refused my
desire to work summers in the shop to help with expenses, saying, "The
shop has been good to me but I don't want you to ever set foot in it."
Both Dad and Mom wanted us
to go on to "higher" things. And we did, making both of them
proud of us even though they seldom understood what our worlds were
about. Mom, however, did her best to listen in on our
conversations when we visited to try to figure out what we were
into. And she read some of my books, though I never knew if she
understood much from them. She also attended some of my classes
when they came to California to visit. She sat there smiling,
seeming to bask in watching and hearing me teach though, again, I doubt
that she understood much. But I knew she was cheering me on.
Mom was devoted to our family, though not in the way many moms
are. She didn't distinguish herself by her cooking or
housekeeping. Her way of raising us was to take us places to do
things like hiking and swimming. She was an "outdoorsy" person
and we got in on whatever she was doing outdoors or in swimming
pools. Dad was distant but Mom poured herself into us.
As we grew up, then, and
brought back our wives-to-be, Mom graciously incorporated each into our
family. I'll never forget how nicely she treated Meg when I
brought her from the midwest to Connecticut to meet the family.
If Meg was my choice, she was Mom's choice too.
Then, as our children were
born, whenever we were within driving distance (e.g. our years studying
at Hartford Seminary), she would set aside a day a week to spend with
the grandkids. While we were in Nigeria, then, she fielded our
letters, retyping them and sending them out to family and friends to
keep them up on our latest adventures. And I have no doubt that
she was behind the annual trips she and Dad would take to visit us in
Michigan and California. She even got Dad to pull a camping
trailer and to camp across the country to California to spend several
weeks with us each year.
Besides these visits, then,
she would write her weekly "Famlet" on a typewriter with carbon copies
(she never did get onto a computer though we tried to teach her) to
keep us up on her doings. Much of what she wrote didn't concern
us or people we knew but these letters let us know that we were
important enough to her to share in her world. It was a sad day
when she stopped writing the Famlets.
Then there are the
afghans. She crocheted an afghan for each of the grandkids and
all but two or three of the great-grandkids -- at least 25 in all -- so
that the younger family members would remember her.
Our last memory of her is
the afternoon she spent sitting in our livingroom with all our kids and
grandkids around her with a big smile on her face, especially when our
two-year-old Alyssa jumped up into her lap. She simply enjoyed
being there even though she didn't remember it the next day.
Mom was a special
person. We, the family, and many others miss her already.