I Want to Be Like You
We had just returned to Thailand after visiting Singapore and Hong Kong when we got the call no traveler wants to get. “Your mother isn’t doing well,” our brother-in-law told Phil. “It’s probably time for you two to come home….” Mom was 101.
Twenty years ago I fell madly in love with Tima’s son, Phil. There were many reasons for that but what sealed the deal for me was when he told me that, in his family, they revere women and put them up on a pedestal.
WELL, I WANTED THAT!
When I went to his family home and met his mother, I could see why they put women on a pedestal. I put her on a pedestal as well, and for 20 years that is where she has remained with me.
the first meeting
A number of things impressed me about this family on my first visit. I was awed by how large and loving it was. In watching, I realized that Phil’s mom and his dad John were the maypole from which all of these people sprang and learned how to live their lives and raise their children.
Everyone in the family gave me such a warm welcome on that first meeting. For example, when I entered the house and Phil introduced me, grandchildren jumped up and hugged me right off. Later that day a young granddaughter said to me about Mom, “I want to be like her when I grow up.” I was awed that these grandchildren were so loving to others and admiring of an older person. I thought about what it is that creates that kind of behavior in a family and realized that these must be wonderful people.
Tima was 81 years old when I met her that first day. She was dressed in a flowing black silk skirt and a black sleeveless top, with cute sandals and long red hair perfectly coiffed. She had on lipstick and mascara and was bejeweled with rings and bracelets and necklaces of silver and turquoise. The woman was glamorous. I thought to myself, if she can be this glamorous at her age, then any of us can. And that’s when I too said “I want to be like her when I grow up”.
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My mother came from North Carolina to visit with us at Phil’s parents’ house one summer. We parked our little RV in the yard and Mother and I slept there while Phil slept in the house. My mother was largely blind with macular degeneration but could see just enough to tell what was going on. Everyday we would go into the house and visit with Tima and John.
When Mother returned home to North Carolina, she told tales about her visit. The story she loved to tell was about witnessing Phil’s parents sitting on the couch after dinner, the TV on, family all around. “There they were,” my Mother would say, “holding hands and talking to each other like there was no one else in the room. They were just like lovebirds.”
And that’s when I said, “I want Phil and me to be like them when we grow up”.
going to new mexico
Mom and Dad liked to go to Albuquerque New Mexico each year. Mom was born near there so she liked to visit relatives, shop for turquoise jewelry to add to her collection, and get sacks of New Mexico’s famous green chile to bring home. Mom didn’t like to sleep in unfamiliar places so Dad would drive the entire 15 hours from LA to New Mexico without stopping for the night.
Phil and I started thinking that at 85 years old this might be too much driving for Dad and maybe even dangerous for him and others, so we cooked up a scheme. “What if we go with you”, we offered, “and Phil could drive the RV and we’d all have a good time together?” It was in part a sneaky way to get Dad off the road. They loved the idea so that’s what we did.
Dad rode shotgun in the RV and Mom and I would sit at the dining room table, chatting the whole way. Coming back we would cover the table with newspaper or plastic and she and I would peel gunny sacks full of chile for the 15 hour ride back. The best part (besides having all my chile peeled and ready to freeze) is that Mom would tell me stories, about her life, her childhood, her family. Every tale she told always put others in a good light. I never heard her speak badly of anyone and to me she embodied the saying, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all”.
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call me “mom”
She did get after me once, however. For some reason I started calling her “Tima”. She told me in no uncertain terms that I was to call her “Mom”. So from then on “Mom” it was.
Mom passed on May 3rd, 2014 while holding her son Phil’s hand, a man we both love. Remarkably, it was the exact same day on which Dad, her beloved husband she married 80 years ago, passed away 7 years previous. Was that a coincidence or some Divine Plan?
So Mom, thank you for your love, your kindness, your example of how to live and love, and for your son Phil who I promise to love and cherish. Like your grandchildren, I still want to be like you when I grow up. You know, I hope we can all be more like you. We love you, Mom. Rest in Peace.