Forty-three years ago my mom’s first husband died. They were in college and had only been married six months. He was away on work, his Ford Falcon was hit head-on by a grain truck, and that was the beginning of the worst for my mother. Depression, anxiety, searing loss.
Fifty-four years ago my mom came down with Rheumatic Fever and spent her sixth-grade year in bed. Eating in bed, reading in bed, watching tv for a treat. Oral Roberts promised healing if she’d touch the screen. So she did. With disappointment. My grandpa gave her a blank book to fill, and thus begun her writing life.
Thirty-nine years ago my mother birthed her first child. She was a hippie. Ecstatic with joy. She welcomed me with absolute and forever love. It was the beginning of the best for my mother. Pink, healthy babies. A husband she loved. The wonder years of having children.
Forty-two-and-a-half years ago my mom met my dad. He had long hair and short shorts, muscles and a car with a hole in the floor. She wasn’t so sure. And then she was. They married the last day of finals. She wore a yellow dress and white daisies in her hair. They lived in a farmhouse in the country with their dogs, Sammy and Nicholas.
Thirteen years ago my mom was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and spent the next five years on a futon. There was pain and medicine and sleep. Many nights in the ER. She tried to be a mom, but mostly just existed. She hated those years. They lasted a lifetime.
Ten years ago my mother flew to Los Angeles to meet her first grandchild. He was cute and cuddly and perfectly perfect. A whole new round of life beginning, for him and for her. There were more grandchildren to come, now six in all. Girls and boys, all of them part of her. And all of them in love with their Nana.
Life is long and short, depending on the day, depending on the circumstances. Full of terrible and wonderful. Years of both, tears for all sorts of reasons. In honor of my mom’s 65th birthday I send this into the world. To say that I know her story, at least in part. That I’ve heard and listened and taken it in. It informs my life, helps me navigate, teaches me lessons of how to be. It is my heritage, good and bad. Today I celebrate the good.
These are snapshots of her life. A quick flip through a photo album. A big, fat one filled with the people she has loved, the mistakes she has made, the forgiveness she’s received, the good she has done, the beauty she has witnessed and created, the joy and the pain she has known. With many more pages to fill. It’s titled Claudia Jean (Helm) Hooge, and I’m glad to have had a few photos in it myself.