When I was growing up, Mother’s Day was a big event at the First Baptist Church in Clarksville. Brother Laida always preached about Biblical mothers (with not too much emphasis on Mary, mother of Jesus) and sometimes a segue into Ruth and her loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi.
The most interesting thing to me about the church service, however, was that everyone wore a rose or a carnation to church that day. I asked Mother about it when I was
small. “You wear a red rose or carnation if your mother is alive, and a white one if she’s not,” she said. Mother and Daddy each wore a white carnation and I wore a red one, all bought at the grocery store on Saturday. In later years when we lived on the farm I wore a red rose pinned to my dress from the old-fashioned rosebush that spilled over in our front yard.
Mother always talked about her mother on that day with a mix of sadness and detachment that I found hard to understand. I remember her saying I had her mother’s hands, long-fingered and slim.
Mother and I had very different personalities, and my stubbornness irritated her. Life was a constant battle for control, and I almost always gave in. I moved away to gain some freedom, but I never stopped coming home. No matter how we disagreed, I knew she loved me.
Her health deteriorated in her last years, and my sister Glenda moved her to her own town in Ohio and took care of her. Even when she was in her bed in a nursing home, Mother was still herself. Racked by strokes, she could hardly speak. I would visit her, flying in from New York, and talk about nothing while she struggled to respond, But when I went to leave, she managed to say the same things every time. “Did you park at the airport? Will you get home before dark? Be careful,” she said, very slowly. Her dark eyes followed me as I walked out the door of her room.
I miss her still. I wish I had a white rose to wear for her on the day.