Godspeed, Dear Duchess

blogXonXhorseWomen, the anthropological folks tell us, love in three ages, and to me, those ages correspond with the parts of a romance. In the early pages, all is giddy innocence and girlish glee–a crush, in other words. This love consists mostly of joy and possibilities, without much practicality. 

The next age is the love of the woman, full of passion and plans. Babies get conceived when this love is upon us, as do big dreams, careers, and exciting journeys. But… the dreams don’t always come true. Babies get sick. Long journeys don’t end up at our intended destination. 

Thus, the third age is the love of the crone. Her appearance shows wear and woe, she’s not always so cheerful, and she’s seen dreams, and babies, die. And yet, myth, sociology, and wisdom literature tells us, it’s the love of the crone that transforms us. The girlish crush and the womanly passion have their time, but for progress toward world peace or inner peace, we need that beady-eyed, tenacious, tough-talking, this ain’t-going-to-be-pretty love of the crone. 

blogXwristXcorsageFrom this grandma version of love, we learn that love stays around no matter what, love does heavy lifting–and the laundry. Love deals with disappointment, over and over, without accepting less than our best efforts. In the end, if our self-regard doesn’t have an element of this old woman love, we never get to be the person we’re supposed to be. 

In my life, my mom was the one who modeled the pragmatic, tenacious, walk-through-fire/you-listen-to-me love. My pregnancy was high risk, and Mom–a registered nurse–flew across the country to spend weeks doing my housework and taking my blood pressure. She was furious with me for walking into unwed mmust_550otherhood, and she was heart-broken for me. 

When I brought the baby home from the hospital, Mom burst into tears, one of few times I saw her cry. “Mom, the baby’s fine. Why are you crying?” 

“Because I know what she’ll have to go through, and what you’ll go through.” Then Mom went grocery shopping. 

When I was badly bullied in fifth grade, Mom marched into Monsignor’s office, told him his school had a serious problem–he did not dare argue with her–and enrolled me in the local public school. When the high school principal didn’t want to let me take Trig, Music Theory, and Latin, Mom told him to get a damned clue. Grace can do anything she puts her mind to. 

blogXlionessGrace hadn’t known that, until her mom announced it in the middle of a tirade.

My mother left this earthly realm earlier this month in a peaceful and not unexpected passing at the age of 92. She abides in my heart, and always will. 

She also abides in my stores of wisdom. One of her best pieces of advice was, “Don’t make decisions when you’re tired. The problem will still be there in the morning.” Neuroscience has long since come down in favor of her guidance. 

What’s an example or a bit of wisdom, given to you by your mom, crazy aunt, or grandma? Or maybe… a bit wisdom life has passed along to you, that you wish you could share with younger self? 

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37 comments on “Godspeed, Dear Duchess

  1. So sorry to hear you are now without your mother, Grace, though it sounds like her presence will always be with you and give you comfort.

    Best advice? Probably “take a chance and explore.” Sure, you might have to backtrack from places where you really shouldn’t be, but you never know what you’ll find unless you try to get beyond your comfort zone.

  2. My grandma died when I was just 12 years old, but had such a huge impact on my life. She had a way of making every one of us feel like we were the most important person in the world (which is a tricky task when dealing with 6 little people,). My mother used to complain that she was spoiling us and my grandma would say “Everyone deserves to have at least one person in their life who spoils them.” She radiated love and kindness and I learned a lot about love from her–how to give love in many different ways and how to accept it. I also inherited my love of romance novels from her!
    Your mother sounds like a wise and tough mama bear!

    • My grandma was like yours–determined to spoil her grandkids, in the best possible way.

      And yes, my mom was tough. I don’t think anybody raises seven children and endures 70 years of marriage to the same guy without developing the hide of a dragon.

      And yet, she loved to laugh too.

  3. Thinking of you and your family. This blog is a wonderful tribute to your Mom and her love for you and your daughter.

    My Nana Molly’s best advice to me was to have patience and faith. She taught me how to bake, brew a pot of tea and the importance of faith–Faith in myself, others and the person above. Simple advice that has helped me through many crisises.

    • Both of my parents have modeled faith, particularly in the sense of tenacity. “You never know when you’re winning,” my dad sometimes says. He means that even a failure can open doors, or spare us from wasted effort.

      My mom’s version was, “What do you learn on your good days?” Which I think was handed down from her father, and possibly from his as well.

  4. “First to thine self be true and it shall follow as night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.”

    My mother wrote that in a card when I graduated from high school. Not being a great fan of Shakespeare, she had to explain to me that she wanted me to know myself and be myself.

    She was right. I had low self esteem when I was young and was always worried about what other people thought of me and I was trying so hard to be what others wanted me to be.

    I didn’t really “get” it though until I was in my early 30s.

    Sorry about your mom. I was in my early 50s when my mom died. It felt like a closing of a chapter in my life.

    • The Bard’s advice still rings true, and how insightful for you mother to let him be the one to convey the sentiment to you.

      I’ll miss my mother, but since I turned 21, and parents and I have lived on opposite coasts. The loss is different for me than for the siblings who lived in closer proximity. Our concern now focuses on Dad, who for the first time in 70 years, was without his Valentine. THAT was hard.

  5. So sorry for your loss. I lost both my parents in ’03 and ’04, and I miss them so much. My best advice was from my mother- in- law. When something happened, she would say, ” It is what it is.” She meant, deal with it, make necessary changes , and go on living. She was a very active woman, and as she grew older and more infirm, she found new activities to replace the ones she could no longer do. She lived that way until the day of her final stroke at 92. I miss her very much, too.

  6. Oh Grace, I am so sorry! This *losing your mother* business is rough….rougher than I ever imagined it to be.

    My Mom was a lady. That’s one of the things she taught me. And she was the mother of six children who fought for us, until her dying day. She could clean anything and I have a book she gave me (her secret)early in my marriage entitled “How to Clean Anything” which lives on my kitchen book shelves, waiting until I need it. She had two masters degrees in music and was a coloratura soprano with a voice like an angel.

    The most profound thing about her life and what she taught me (and all of us)was how she left it. We had home hospice for her the last two days of her life and had a hospital bed in the family room. Some of the equipment blocked her view of her beloved piano. She complained she couldn’t see the piano and we moved the stuff so she could see it and we sang to her. The day before she died, I was stroking her hand and holding it said I was so sorry she had to go through this. And she said, “don’t be sorry, honey, everybody has to go through this.” That’s what I learned….everybody has to go through stuff and we might as well do it with grace.

    So sorry for your loss.

    • That’s doing your finale with class. My mom died at home as well, which was what she wanted. She’d busted a hip New Years Eve, got through the surgery fine, but probably wasn’t too enthusiastic about diminished sight, impaired hearing, PLUS a wheel chair, and all the dependence that entails. So… she made other plans, though those who needed to say good-bye had plenty of time to do that.

  7. My grandmother (the only one in my life) died way too young at the age of 70, a few weeks before my 16th birthday. She was grace and kindness personified. The older I get and the more I know of her life the more I am amazed by the woman she was. She was the Cinderella of her house growing up. One of three children and the one who was made to do all the work while the other two were highly favored. When she was 18 she met my grandfather and when they were married she was talked about by the ladies of her husband’s congregation as being too beautiful to be a pastor’s wife. Her sister died tragically the year after her wedding. Before my mom was born they adopted a little girl from an unwed mother in their congregation and when they little girl was two the parents decided to get married and wanted their daughter back. They gave her back to her birth parents. When she was pregnant with her fourth child the doctor’s told her to abort the baby or she would die. She went through with pregnancy and my uncle is very much alive today. Afew short years later she watched her husband die from cancer and she had to move out of the parsonage with her two children that were still young enough to be at home. 5 years later she met a man who was all things nice and wonderful to her young son. She married him and found out that he wasn’t all that he seemed, but she stayed married. The year before I was born her oldest son was killed in a car accident. Throughout my life I only knew her to be happy, loving, funny, kind and generous. I learned from her that life may not always be roses and sunshine but we can still smile, be kind and love regardless of what life has thrown at us.
    You and your family remain in my prayers. Much love to you.

    • That’s quite a tale of resilience, and you’re right–seventy was too soon. My grandma was a similarly indomitable woman, from being abandoned by her dad in childhood, to widowed with a baby girl at nineteen, miserably-remarried in the Depression… I knew her as the grandma who OWNED A CANDY STORE. Never a cross word, never a raised voice.

      My other grandma was different, but equally loving and kind.

      If I have grandkids, I hope they recall me as fondly as I recall my grandmothers.

  8. My deepest condolences on your loss Grace.

    I am on my third trimester of pregnancy and really hoping that my mum could be here when I give birth (She’s from the Philippines and we are in the midst of petitioning her Australian Visitor visa). I love her so much and her no nonsense approach to problems as well!

    One of the best snippet of wisdom that my mum gave to my heartbroken 25 year old self then was: Don’t worry, your husband is just around the corner. Six months later, I got married to my best friend!

    PS. I love love love your books (Have read all your series and looking forward to Will’s True Wish!)

    • Will keep my fingers crossed that your mother can be with you when the baby arrives–such a great time to have unequivocal support. I also think being a grandma must be terrific fun, at least some of the time. For her sake, I hope your Mum gets here soon!

  9. I am so very sorry for your loss. I lost my mother when I was fourteen; no one has ever been able to fill that void. I once read that when we lose our parent(s), we move to the “front line”, which is rather sobering at first glance, but nothing I care to dwell on. The best advice I recall, but can’t remember who, when, or where I came by it was to “bloom where you’re planted”.

    Sincerely,

    • I know what that move to the front line refers to, but I’m also inspired by the words of a friend who lost her mom a while ago. “I’m closer now to the grave than the cradle, but I’m NOT THERE YET, and the time that’s left will be the best time yet!”

      My life has grown happier and lovelier with each decade. I hope to continue that trend, and Mom’s death is a reminder not to waste what remains. Not one moment of it.

  10. Oh, I am sorry to hear of the loss of your mother. At any age, under any circumstances, it’s grief and loss…and can make you feel as if no one really understands. In a way, that’s true, because no one can understand the link one had with their mother. They’re as unique as snowflakes. I think mothers are the holders of all your memories. My mother has been gone 16 years now, but not a day goes by that I don’t miss her and think of her (and Dad, too). The grief is like a bruise–it might heal over but it’s always tender. Your mom sounds like she was a firecracker. So glad you have such wonderful memories.

    • She was a firecracker, you’re right–right down to the lovely titian hair. We were not a good fit as I was growing up, but that changed as time went on. She was ferociously protective of all of her kids, and her grandkids and great-grands.

  11. Grace, I am so sorry about your mom. It is never easy to lose a loved one whether it is expected or not. I’m glad for everyone’s sake it was peaceful. You and your family are in my
    thoughts and prayers.

    I’ve been blessed to learn a great deal from my female relatives – by example (both good and bad), and by words of wisdom. One of the stories my grandmother and her sisters often told us was how one sister would often remove the steering wheel from the car – literally. She usually did it when everyone was focusing on the bad – easy to do when you’re tenant farmers in dust bowl Kansas. She claimed she did it to lighten the mood and to teach her little sisters that even when you are in charge, you can’t control everything but things will work out in the end. (I’m not sure that’s what the siblings learned, but it made an impression.)

  12. I had two grandmothers who died a long time ago. One I liked and the other I didn’t care for. When I got married, I felt her presence strongly on the day of my wedding in the church. I found that odd. She was quite conservative. Perhaps she was pleased that I was no longer living in sin. (Smiley Face)

    • Oh, my mom was so bewildered and disappointed in many of my choices, but her avowed policy was, “You can go out and commit murder, but the first place you’d better turn for help is home.” I think that was a legacy from her own father–murder? What if I just flunk a math test?

  13. I love the wised of family my grandmother was my angel and I miss her very much her laughter, wised for life stay with me always

    • I miss… just having somebody there. Somebody to be a daughter to. Somebody to call on Mother’s Day, because I’m a mom too. I at least had that in common with her.

      I said to my sister, not long before my mom died, “I want my mommy.”

      Maire’s response was, “I want my mommy too, but I don’t want her to have to live the way she’s living now, dependent on others for every single little thing.”

      So, yes, I miss my mom, and I always will, but she gave me six wonderful siblings and we will miss Mom together.

  14. My sincere condolences. Your mother sounds like a real firecracker. No matter how old they are when they leave – it seems too soon. No matter how old you are – you feel orphaned. I thankfully have the example of my mother on how to live those crone years – with elegance, a glass of wine and friends. I know I should miss the warm things – but I miss her calling to complain about something I did or didn’t do, to tell me to what I should wear or what I should. No one calls me up to nag me about things – no one loves me that way. Be cool And keep writing your mother into more stories.

  15. I’ve been thinking about your dad and how difficult it must be to lose someone after so long together. It sounds like you’re very much like your mother.

    I know what you mean about not having anyone to call, to be the daughter to. I was an only child and by the time I was forty I’d lost my whole family. And these are the people that even if they don’t approve or don’t understand your choices, they still love you. It’s difficult to lose them at any age.

    When my mother was asked how she got through finding out she had ovarian cancer the month after losing my father, followed by seven years of chemo, she said, “I just pretended it was happening to someone else.” I hope she passed that down because she handled it all with such grace.

  16. Beautiful tribute to your mom, Grace, it made me sniffle.

    My mom’s best advice was “Pick your fights. Know what you’re fighting for, what the important parts are and what can be let go.” It works with kids, with spouses, with co-workers, with budgets…

  17. My deepest condolences, Grace. My own mother was wonderful, wise, and provided countless gems of wisdom about manners, men, friendship, and life. I could have confided anything to her. How blessed are we to have been loved and raised by such women.

  18. My mother died 18 months ago, six weeks after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, at the age of 84. In the 13 years before her death, when we shared a house, I learned so much from her. Mostly, I learned that a direct question was the fastest way to the truth, or at least a clearer idea of what might be the truth, and that she was absolutely right: no one has a clue what goes on between two people except those two people. And no one has any idea how very much they are loved by a good mother.

    If someone truly believes in you, you cannot fail, not in any meaningful sense of the word.

    In the end, the only people you can rely on are your family. And it isn’t really a problem if money can solve it.

  19. Grace, you have had a lot on your plate recently. You mean so much to your readers, please take a small break, just for you. Your mother sounded like quite a woman. All the best.

  20. I am so sorry for the loss of your precious mother. My heart goes out to you and your family. I also think of how blessed you were in her long life.

    My lovely mother left us in 1999, and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her, and feel so much gratitude that I had her in my life. The funny thing is that I look in the mirror and see my resemblance to her as I age, and it pleases me. I hear her voice and thoughts as I give my son (unwanted) advice. When I look at my husband and son and siblings with love, I remember all the ways she showed that she loved us.

    One lesson: After she was gone, I realized that the love of your life isn’t necessarily a grand romantic love, and there can be more than one. (Naturally, I thought I had just had my heart broken by a guy.) My parents were the first two of the great loves of my life.

  21. Sorry to hear of your mom’s passing.
    My late mother once said,”Eat it now. Because if you don’t eat it now you will eat it sooner or later. You may not recognize it but, you will eat it.”
    Bless us all, the woman had courage and humour.