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And You Always Will...
Missing Mom on Mother's Day

I opened the dishtowel drawer for about the sixth time, hoping the towels had somehow magically appeared. The brand new towels still weren’t there, of course. “What did Mom DO with them?” I wondered aloud.

What next?

Maybe I’d be better off attending to the big things right now, anyway, like vacuuming.

I got out the vacuum cleaner. Except, why did it sound so funny? And why wasn’t it picking up those bits of paper on the living room carpeting? I pulled out the attachments hose and flipped the switch again. Ah-ha. That’s why. No suction. The hose was plugged.

Well, of COURSE the hose was plugged. I couldn’t find the new dishtowels.Why wouldn't the vacuum cleaner hose be plugged? And right then and there, I started to cry.

Where was Dad? I knew he’d gone outside and was probably puttering around in his garden, seeing as it was the middle of April, but why wasn’t he in here when I needed him? After being a farmer for 50 years, he could fix absolutely anything. Just at that moment, my father came into the house.

"I miss my mother."
There. I'd said it ...

“What’s wrong?” he asked, noticing that I had been crying. Although it had been years since I called him “Daddy,” it just sort of slipped out, and along with it came more tears. “Oh, Daddy — I can’t find the new dishtowels. The vacuum cleaner is plugged. And—" I stopped and swallowed hard. “I miss my mother.”

There. I’d said it. And in that instant, the whole world seemed to stop while Dad drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I know you do,” he said. “So do I.”

You see, only three weeks earlier, my mother had been diagnosed with advanced gallbladder cancer. Mom died Saturday night, and this was Monday. My father’s niece and her husband were driving 275 miles to attend the funeral, and they would be staying at the house.

As Dad gazed at me, I noticed how much he seemed to have aged in the last few weeks. And his face was covered with silvery stubble. It was a rare morning when my father didn’t shave, but then, the past couple of days had been far from ordinary.

“And you know what?” Dad continued. “You always WILL miss your mother. In fact, it won’t ever go away completely. Not even when you’re as old as me.” Dad was 70. I was 26. I never knew Dad's mother. She had died before I was born. Mom had been stricken with polio in 1942 when she was 26 and paralyzed in both legs. At the time, the doctors had told her she would never have more children. I was born 16 years later.

After the funeral was over and my father’s relatives had gone home, I found the dishtowels. Mom had put them in her dresser drawer. Dad had been able to fix the vacuum cleaner too. But nothing could fix the fact that my mother was gone.

Mom died in 1985, and all these years later, I realize that Dad was right — I AM always going to miss her. But I’ve also figured out what else he was trying to tell me on that April day so long ago — that missing my mother keeps her alive in my heart.

About the Author...
LeAnn R. Ralph is the editor of the Wisconsin Regional Writer (the quarterly publication of the Wisconsin Regional Writers' Assoc.) and is the author of the book, Christmas in Dairyland (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm).
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