Diamond Anniversary

Joyce Antrim, 9/5/33

 

Mom liked diamonds, but she really preferred sapphires.Not surprising, really, as her eyes were royal blue, and sapphires really brought them out.Still, this is the 75th anniversary of her birth, her Diamond Anniversary, and I celebrate everything she was and everything she will always be for me.

 

Mom celebrating her birthday

This was from her 57th, in 1990.I made the cheesecake (easy to tell by the sideways scrawl) and the theme can be seen on the bag Ė ĎCancel the birthday but have the party!íShe hated having her picture taken (one of many traits she passed on to me) but would suffer if I whined long enough (or gave her puppy eyes until she caved in, or snuck in and took it before she could duck and cover).

 

 

Then sheíd be more resigned than anything, but she couldnít quite contain the Mom, not happy at having her picture takensmile.I love these pictures, because they remind me of everyday moments, first thing in the morning, or after school running around in the heat, or tired after a long day; listening to music, or reading, or watching an opera or a baseball game on TV together; mall-walking or discovering new restaurants or parking at the beach to watch the surf roll in.Mom wasnít preachy, and she wasnít pedantic, but she taught.She taught by doing, by being, by encouraging.She taught me to sing, to read, and to pray.She personified persistence, curiosity, and sacrifice.Because she never gave up, neither do I.And she did it under circumstances that would have crushed me like a bug.

 

 

 

We were a tribe of our own.Nearly out of the picture on the left is Tim, who killed himself in a one-car accident in My family in Mexico on vacation in 19671991.Mom said a mother should never have to bury her child, and she was right, but she did, with dignity.Next to Tim is Mom, with her singular teeth-gritted toleration of picture taking; Dad, apparently wishing to be anywhere else, not an uncommon reaction to our family outings; Grandma, wondering how on Earth she managed to get stuck in the middle with a salacious invitation perched on her head; Grandpa, wishing he was elsewhere, also not uncommon; myself on the donkey, as any time I found anything horse-like, I immediately had to ride it, or at least sit on it; and John, playing big brother as only he could.In the second row are Rick, currently in assisted living after a massive stroke in 1985, another experience a mother should never have to experience with her child, made more difficult by the actions of his stepmother, but thatís another long story; and Bobby, placing us all with his Mexico sombrero, still cute and bright, before life broke him into pieces.Oh, and the donkey, who looks like heís about to fall asleep.Mom was the glue that held us together.I have had no contact with my surviving brothers in fifteen years.We have nothing in common, and while my heart finds that sad, my mind accepted it a long time ago.But this isnít about the peripherals of my family, itís about the central node.

 

Mom.

 

She was tough when she had to be, and essentially raising five children alone, she often had to be.But she was also the one person Mom and me hugging during an Easter celebrationin the world I could trust unconditionally.I could tell her anything, and I could ask for her help with anything.She didnít judge.She guided, but she also accepted.She didnít tolerate difference; that implies that there is something inherently unequal between people.She accepted and celebrated difference, as something that made life beautiful.Her life was formed by pressures I can scarcely imagine, in circumstances, from the time she was a young girl, that would have broken many people.But she endured.Tumbled and battered as she was by life, she was also polished and perfected, facets shining from her that gave light to the people in her life.She gave, of her time, her efforts, her money, and she never stopped giving, until the very end of her life, when we gave back to her.Life situations that could have made her hard made her open, instead; made her heart into her guide.She led with her heart, and while sometimes it caused her pain, for those who benefited from knowing and loving her, she could have given no greater gift.While she may have preferred sapphires, she, herself, was a true diamond.

 

Mom wearing her heart pendant

She didnít want me to join the Air Force, but she did everything she could to make it easy for me, because she knew it was what I wanted.She gave me a pendant that was paired with the one seen here, a friendship/love pendant that when both were placed together, formed a single heart.It took me years to understand that she wasnít only saying that we carried a piece of one anotherís heart with us; she was telling me I was breaking her heart.When I was discharged in 1990, she finally told me that she really, really hadnít wanted me to join.I was astonished.She had been supportive and encouraging, and I had no idea she hated the thought of another of her kids (and her only daughter) going so far away.

 

Mom and me, in my mess dress uniform

Sheíd lived with a Marine for a husband, dealing with the uncertainty of multiple tours in combat during the Korean and Viet Nam wars, and with John and Rick both joining the Army and being in some risky positions.One time when I called her from a classified posting and couldnít tell her what was going on, she sounded a little strangled on the phone.In the background I could hear CNN news on her television, talking about the tensions in Panama days prior to the US invasion.I didnít have to tell her where I was.She knew.She was terrified.She never gave me a clue, because she didnít want to burden me with her fear when I was in the middle of a difficult situation.I have never had a prouder moment than seeing her face when I graduated with my BA, until I saw her face when I received my MA.I was the first child in my family to graduate from high school, to go to college, and to get an advanced degree.Somewhere in Heaven she crowed with glee when I got my second Masterís.I did it, from the beginning, because she believed wholeheartedly that I couldÖ so I did.Her belief fueled mine.

Mom and Dad 'pinning' me at my commissioning into the USAF

She carried too many of her burdens alone.I would have helped, I hope, and not made them heavier.I didnít always react the way I should, and she deserved better from me.She deserved better from a lot of people (including all her kids, her husband, her brothers and her own father).Honestly, she deserved better from life.

 

I donít know where she is now, but I hope and pray that she is safe, secure, happy, healthy, appreciated for who she is, and absolutely loved.If anyone deserves it, she does.

 

Happy diamond anniversary, Mom.Shine on.

Emma Joyce Antrim

1933-1995