Saturday, February 6, 2016

Goodbye, Mom

I’ve had this image in my head of mom and dad.  Dad has been standing by the door these past couple of months, his jacket and cap on, mom’s coat over his arm and the car running, waiting for her to finally head out.  He was the the Irish leave, just slipping out the door and she, the Minnesota goodbye.  

Mom never taught us how to cook a standing rib roast, she didn't show us how to keep a perfect home with sparkling, streak free windows and things like knitting or crafts were forever a mystery to her. The things she taught us were far and away more important. She taught us to be passionate, dedicated and active members of our world. That it is possible and necessary to make a difference in our neighborhood, our school, our city and the greater world. We learned that anything is possible if you’re ballsy and determined enough. We were shown how strong a woman can be, how much power we have and how we could use it.  

We learned to be fearless from my mom, we learned that we had a voice and that speaking up was “what you do”. If Gayle had a catchphrase, it was “It’s what we do.” . You don't question, you don't wonder why, you don't think twice, you speak up, you take action, you take a stand...it’s what you do.  You stick up for people, individuals or groups, you don't let people get hurt if you can stop it and you never, ever let ANYONE get away with doing damage to the people you love, it’s what we do. 

Mom taught us how to be welcoming, embracing and how to bring people together. Gatherings at the Goodrich house were joyous, raucous and marvelous. Easter and Thanksgiving were the “sit down” holidays but there was always room for an extra chair or three.  The dinners lasted for hours and the world’s ills were usually solved before dessert.  Anyone could participate in the discussion with the unspoken rules of “stay on topic” and “don’t be mean”.  Christmas and the Fourth of July were events to behold.  Christmas at 2258 WAS Christmas, not only for us, but for so very many others, the open house became part of their holiday tradition.  Independence Day became the stuff of legend, due to my father’s love of explosives, ongoing skirmishes with St. Thomas security, disappearing Rice Krispie treats and the ever changing cast of characters, with Tom and Gayle at the center of it all.  Holidays were never meant for just family and there was almost always an honorary family member or ten included in the day. Strangers were never strangers for long, the seamlessness of being brought in and adopted into the family was something magical. You were welcome, you were embraced, you were loved. That’s what we do.

Mom showed us that there will never be anything as important as family. My sisters and I have been told repeatedly during this past year by doctors, nurses, social workers and the like how extraordinary we are that we haven't been fighting with each other, we have all been surprised by that.  It simply never occurred to us to behave that way, in times of crisis, you pull together and get things done, it’s what you do. Besides, when you’re not sharing a bathroom or cutting the hair off each other’s Barbie dolls, there’s really not much to fight about.  When her sister, Barb, moved back to Minnesota, mom added extra places at the table and we got down to the business of getting to know our cousins from the wilds of Michigan and now we can't imagine what life was like before they came home to us. When Grandma Summers got sick, mom was there for doctor’s appointment and hospital admissions because that’s what you do.  When my husband, Dan, lost his sister, mom and dad and Jenny came up to Crookston for the funeral, even though they had never met his sister. Dan was well and truly puzzled why they came and mom simply said “You're family, it’s what we do.” Growing up, I never could have imagined just how much this family they created would mean to me, but I know that there is nothing as sacred, as special or as wonderful as these people. She taught us that family can be so much more than what you're born into, family is what you create by who you love and with whom you surround yourself. Family is in laws, cousins, nieces and nephews, it's grandchildren and best friends. Family is neighbors and coworkers, it's the best legacy you can leave behind. Mom taught us that love is love and family is everything.  She and dad gave me the best gift I never even knew I wanted in this family. They taught us how rich you are when your family surrounds you. The past year has taught us how right they were, we never would have made it through without this family they created. We have been supported, helped and loved by the people she made our family. It’s what you do. It’s what we do.

1 comment:

Daryl Kowitz said...

Execellent article Libby......so true.