Mom, yesterday as Jill, Russell and I rolled down the road to Estevan, I sat behind Jill the driver, my eyes closed, battling my nausea wondering to myself, “what do I need from my Mom still?” Your comforting text that morning had touched me so readily. I wondered, “what more do I need to hear from her?”
One thing that came to mind is I need more of your wisdom + advice. That got me thinking, what advice has Mom already given that rumbles in me in a big way. Your wisdom has completely shaped my existence but what advice rings + echoes. The first of 3 things to tell you is this, I was ticked off about it at the time, but you gathered us girls at the dining room table about 5 years ago and warned us that our weight could easily get away on us in this mid-life stage, we need to make it a priority to take care of ourselves. As time unfolded your words were so true. I love this picture
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of Russell and I striding through the corral. I had lost 35 pounds, felt strong and my long lean legs were a revelation to me. The other night you were cleaning your teeth at your beside, taking time on them even when you were exhausted + hurting. You said you wished you had done better with this through the years. You are a good example to me Mom. I want to promise you this, and this feels deadly serious……I am stopping to think about this before I write it, do I mean it? Can I follow through? I have to. I Katherine Mary Kyle promise to take good care of myself – my soul- I will keep on in my r’ship with God, my weight – I am on the right track, my teeth – gonna buy more of those little tools you gave me. My skin – Mary Kay and I are gonna be best friends. My “me” – I will write more (thats the one that makes me cry to
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write…..hmmmmm -). So that was piece #1 of advice. You also told me “don’t worry how long something will take if you really want it, like education, the years are going to pass anyways.” And when I was 19 and came home from a dance broken-hearted, feeling rejected you said to me “keep doing what matters to you, what you love to do and Mr. Right will cross your path.” Again, as time unfolded, your words were so true. I have found in Russell the most loyal and loving life partner I could ask for. I am thankful for him, especially his wisdom, his humor and his absolutely incredible ability as a Dad. So this set of 3 notes + 3 pics is rounded out by these 2 from our vow renewal day. That hat Russell is wearing and his coat are the same he wore in 2000. Thanks for your advice Mom!
This is the 17th of 22 posts in a series, sharing ranch photographs taken by Liz Griffin Photography and used as “postcards” to communicate with my Mom. These were all written in the fall of 2020, while my Mom dealt with a terminal cancer diagnosis.
A little further background…………the trip to Estevan mentioned at the start was for Jillian’s drivers exam. Thinking about it now, through the lens of distance and a much lighter heart, I want to give myself a hero badge. I had a headache bad enough to be nauseated and my heart was burdened, over burdened. Due to Covid the examiner could not be in the car with Jill, instead Jill had a video camera installed, a parent beside her and a cell phone on speaker mode connecting her with the examiner. We were not sure that Russ could keep from influencing Jill with his expressive ways, so, I was the parent in the vehicle throughout the test. She passed! I think my headache was mostly gone when the exam started, but still, patting myself on the back, I think this should be remembered as one of those times when I stepped up to the plate. Russ cuts me alot of slack most of the time, I don’t feel like I have to do super hard things very often, but I remember this as one of those times and I am actually stunned that I could pull up my socks and do it.
Thinking about packing up and leaving you, I find myself wondering if I might have thoughts ands feelings similiar to how you felt when you left me with new babies after getting me through those first days. You know in your heart and mind that the pieces are in places to ensure that loving care is known by all, but nonetheless, circumstances are tricky. Mothers and daughters — a lifelong process of holding close and letting go. From my perspective you have lived that “dance” almost perfectly, even when it was hard (when I moved to Gainsborough.) Here, we only hugged a bit, once, after you vomited, but maybe our table graces allowed a spiritual hug that looked like this pic of Gina and I.
As long as I live I will treasure your wisdom that held me close when I needed it and let me go to find my way too.
I feel like I want to explain the bit about only hugging once. My Mom’s life convictions about being a good citizen led her to many great decisions and actions. When Covid came to be a reality she followed guidelines with utmost care, and she did as she was told, she hugged no-one. I almost don’t want to say this because it will fuel those who say that fear ruled people’s lives. Maybe it did for my Mom but it was fear fuelled by love for all. She wanted to be part of the solution. She also couldn’t risk becoming sick, she needed to have access to the cancer clinic and she was keeping herself ready for that. It was all very tricky. If you look at this with a critical eye you will say, “you sat beside her on her bed and gave her pills, you sat closely at her table, if you were going to give it to her, if you were carrying it, she would have got it.” That would likely be true. So the way this was handled wasn’t exactly consistent and didn’t truly make sense. This is, for me, where grace comes in, doing the best I could with what I had and extending grace, trusting that even if people are inconsistent they are doing the best they can. Did it hurt that my Mom wouldn’t hug me? Yes. Do I regret that? Yes. Did she spiritually hug me almost constantly……with her concern, interest, gratitude, and affirmation of me? Yes. I will hold on to that and celebrate the beautiful example of citizenship that my Mom was.
This postcard is the 12th in a series of 22 that were shared with my Mom in the fall of 2020 when she was battling cancer. I am sharing them as blog posts for two reasons, to keep my blog active when I am too busy to create fresh material, and to offer material that might draw us together around our common humanity, in a time when life is pretty hard for alot of people and conflict is so painful.
This photo was taken by Liz Griffin Photography as part of Gina’s grad formals session.
I have been thinking ahead to this day all week, in little bits and pieces. I want it to be easy, of course I am naïve. It will be what it will be. Mother’s Day is a day of Mammoth importance. If Mother’s Day is about knowing blessings it’s a different day than if its about dissapointments, resentments, difficulties, and losses. So much of our lives is laid bare on Mother’s Day. I could write pages and pages and not do justice to the significance of this day. I don’t need that task this year. Do you want to join me in just some brief thoughts about the two mothers I am thinking about a lot today?
Perhaps you knew my mother in law. Her name is Marlene and she died in 2016. Lately I have found myself thinking about her in a very specific way, in a way that perhaps few women get the opportunity to do, I am not sure. I have been thinking about her from the point of view of walking in her shoes. For decades Marlene was the matriarch of this ranch. From that vantage point she lived an extremely hectic life, responding to the realities of 8 kids, a husband, hired men, hundreds of horses and cows and a good network of friends, family and neighbors. She had a store in the town of Carnduff. She fed a multitude of people every day, her kitchen churned out food that was almost always delicious. She was a quiet but dedicated Grandma. She balanced so much. There were things she didn’t manage all that well. That is just being honest and it is something that could probably be said of all of us. What I note however, is that she found a way to keep the ship afloat most of the time. Using this metaphor I don’t think Marlene had very many days that could be considered, “calm at sea”, between the ever broadening circle of family she felt responsible for, her own struggles, the needs of the animals and circumstances beyond her control like weather and markets, there was always wind up against her it seems to me. From that point of view she had to do what I am now doing, I am walking in her shoes. The thing is, I am pretty sure that for various reasons I have it approximately ten times easier than she did. Having had these years of walking in her shoes I understand better the things that might have stressed her when she was the Miss Ellie of the ranch (remember the matriarch of Dallas?) The phone rings……who wants what?………is everything okay?…………is there bad news to digest?……..do we need to change our plans? …..do I have to answer that? Marlene always answered her phone. I don’t. I am very protective of myself. Marlene sent her husband, hired men and kids out to work with huge draft horses and cows, using equipment not as safe as we are blessed with today, the risk was astounding. I wrestle with this risk every day. I am a bit scarred by what I have known. But how many times did Russell alone send Marlene into a place of worry with his various injuries? I maybe get it why Marlene was quite understated in her response to things, she had faced down a lot, it takes a toll. As I think about Marlene these days I find myself thinking, “I think I get it.” That is no small thing. It really is significant to walk in anothers shoes, both to gain understanding and promote a sense of thankfulness for what we have. As I think about what I have I am really grateful for a lot of things, but the fact that Marlene and Walter gave Russell to the world and to me is one of my greatest blessings. Her work of mothering has made a big difference to me and I do admire how she persevered cause I think I get just how tricky this life could be.
With the loss of my own Mom so fresh in my mind my thoughts of her are all over the map, trying to reign them in is like herding cats. However I did hear something this week that seemed to guide me and my little cats. I was looking for some wisdom and some comfort and I just thought to type into a Youtube search bar, “interview with Maya Angelou”, it was a rather random action. I have been listening to her ever since when space allowed and I have been loving getting to know her. A really good interview was one from 7 years ago, with CBC’s George Stroumboulopuolos. She told him the story of being at an event with the rapper Tupac Shakur. She didn’t know who he was but he was getting himself in a fight and cursing angrily. She insisted on him stepping aside to speak with her. She asked him, “young man, when was the last time someone told you how important you are?” The tension of the moment, the emotions running on high, the reality that a human was stopping a runaway train and and in effect saying, “I see you”, it’s a combination that is heart-stopping I think. With baited breath I waited to hear what happened next. She had more words for him about their shared ancestry, that their people had stood on auction blocks for them to be where they are today. Her message, with all its force and its subtlety hit him and made him weep. I was fascinated by her question. I noticed how she phrased it. She didn’t ask “when was the last time someone told you THAT you are important?”, a question which would allow us to think that his importance was up for grabs , (which is ironic because he was apparently one of the most influential rappers of all time). Instead she said, “when was the last time someone told you HOW important you are?” You might think I am splitting hairs by tuning into this slight word difference. I am doing this because it seems to me the way she phrased her question was based on a core understanding that Tupac (and all of us) was important, that is an unalterable fact, the question is, has anyone lately provided a reminder of that. How beautiful, to both affirm for him his importance as a human being and also his need, like all of ours, to have that fact reflected back to him. I think its heart-stopping. Maya’s question to Tupac has helped me. She has given me something to hold onto. On this Mother’s Day I can focus my thoughts on a great gift my Mom gave me, she never out and out said, “you are important, very important” but she treated me like that was the case and she was consistent. It is admirable how consistent she was. I don’t ever remember feeling that I was unimportant. I am incredibly blessed. In the midst of our whole families deep longings to be near to my Mom Maya gave me something firm to hold onto on this day. She focused my unruly thoughts and reminded me how important I was to Georgie Kyle.
There is a funny thing to share today too. I am married to a mother. When I talked with Russ about this post he felt that he should get honourable mention. He feels that he has been responsible to provide more creatures with their essentials for life than most mothers of the world. The numbers of creatures that Russell has fed bottles to, given mouth to mouth resuscitation to, facilitated adoptions for, assisted with establishing breast feeding and watched out for and treated signs of illness for is quite astounding. So Russ, thanks for all the mothering you do and all your instincts for care and protection that make this a very natural fit. Today on the way home from church Russ asked to stop by the calving pasture to have a look at what was happening for one particular calf. The situation is hard to explain, but Russ decided that right there and then the calf needed to come home to the barn. So, in our church clothes we loaded her up and Morgan did some wrestling all the way home. It made for an exciting interlude on Mothers Day.