Monday, May 23, 2011

Still Scratching My Seven Year Itch (Day 5 of 6)

It's Monday, May 23, 2011, Day Five of my six-day pre-blogaversary celebration for AYBABTU, reposting of some of my somewhat more obscure, yet favorite stories over the seven-year life of this space.

I’m beginning to see a pattern here. It would seem that many of my favorite posts are thoughtful, rather sad tributes to people in my life who have died. Yesterday it was Johnny Carson, today it’s my step-mom Maxine, and tomorrow it will be filmmaker John Hughes. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself...

Anyway, one thing I wanted to mention regarding today’s repost is how much I wish I’d taken Latin in school; it’s a fascinating language for me, largely because so much of our English words are based on Latin derivatives. And being the latter-day etymologist-wannabe I’ve become in my old age, I could poke around a Latin/English translation website for hours – which is what it appears I DID in coming up with the title for this story.

However again, I don’t want to get too far off-track here, except to say that I now realize that when I wrote the story back on June 1, 2010, I goofed a bit in my self-translation of the title phrase Secundum Memor, which, allegedly, is Latin for, In Accordance With Remembering.

The problem is that in actual Latin usage the words would be transposed. It should be phrased, Memor Secundum, with the preposition secundum following its object instead of the other way around, as I’d mashed it up via an online translator. Oh those crazy Romans; maybe I need to get to know their language a little better if I want to use it.

But all levity aside, this is another serious post and one that’s especially close to my heart, as its subject is the woman with whom I shared a turbulent, emotional, quintessential love-hate relationship in my youth. Nevertheless, there was perhaps no person I ever more wished to be accepted by than my step-mother, and thankfully, in the end, I was. Enjoy...

TUESDAY, JUNE 01, 2010

Secundum Memor

For me, Memorial Day is always at least a day late
My father served in the army during WW II, but luckily for my family, didn’t see any time on the battlefield. He’s still with us today; a hale and hearty 86-goin’-on-87 year-old.

None of my aunts and uncles lost their lives fighting for our country either.

I didn’t have any friends or relatives who died in Viet Nam (that I know of, anyway), save for a high school buddy of my late brother David, Glenn Bailey, for whom I always say a prayer each time the calendar rolls around to the final Monday in May.

I don’t believe either of my kids have had friends who’ve lost their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan; nor have any of our family friends with children in current military service dealt with the anguish of such a fate.

Even my most famous soldier-relative, WW I’s most decorated, Sergeant Alvin C. York, who defied incredible odds and employed legendary valor, managed to come through his tour of duty in The Great War with life intact.

So, that being said, Memorial Day, apart from a general reverence on behalf all of the men and women who fought to secure my freedom, had never been all that personal a day of remembrance for me.

That is, until ten years ago today.

June 1, 2000 was the day my step-mom, Maxine was laid to rest.

She died that Memorial Day weekend from a viral infection, which suddenly overtook her body during recovery from a previous surgery. It was shocking; unexpected; devastating. She was 78 years old, but had always been in good health. However that began to change following a second knee replacement in 1999 and a subsequent series of complications, including removal of a benign tumor and a staph infection, which she was recovering from at the time that the secondary viral infection took over and ended her life.

The stormy relationship Maxine and I shared is well-documented, yet the loss I still feel each June 1st has never abated; and I doubt, ever will.

For the vast majority of my adult life, I was on wonderful terms with the woman who raised me; who taught me responsibility, and “the principle of the thing.” But it hadn’t always been so.

The lessons she delivered were hard and unrelenting; the same way that she had learned them, growing up during The Great Depression. I had every reason to rebel; every reason to hate her, but I endured, and eventually won her favor.

The years seemed to mellow her, but I’m not certain of that. All I know for sure is that her stance toward me changed after I became an adult. She often made it a point to let me know that finally, I had “done good” after years of not-so-subtly suggesting that I never would.

I learned the definition of forgiveness through my step-mother; not by her example, but rather by God’s provision of my opportunity to grant it unto her, despite all the reasons I had not to.

Ten years later, now with adult children of my own, with whom many of the same issues of will that my Mom and I battled having come and gone, I see things through different eyes; even more so now than I did ten years ago, when I stood at the podium of Forest Lawn’s Church of Our Fathers, delivering her eulogy.

There are always two sides to every story; dual points of view, both seemingly ‘right’ in the eyes of those who hold them. Whether it was hers or whether it was mine that was the correct one is immaterial.

What is important, and what is that part of the substance of my character gleaned from my relationship with Maxine, is that there is good in every situation, no matter how dark or daunting. A battle of wills does not always declare a victor, nor does it always brand a loser.

Maxine taught me that there is more than one way to love.

Thanks, Mom.

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