Within months of graduating from high school in 1976 my mother made two major decisions with her life: she joined the Navy and married her high school sweetheart-the man who would become my father. When she completed boot camp my Grandma traveled to Orlando for her graduation. Years later my Grandma’s face would shine with pride as she recounted the trip and her joy in having a daughter who was making her way in an institution that was known to be hostile to women.
My mothers’ military service was something my relatives bragged about. The focal point of my great-aunts living room was an oversize picture of my mother in her Service Dress Blues. My mother told me she joined the Navy because she wanted to get away from the small Midwestern city she grew up in. She needed an escape. By the time I wondered exactly why she was so pressed to leave she had passed away. It is a question I will never know the answer to.
What I DO know, however, is that the Navy gave her what she craved. For thirteen years she served. After her discharge from the service she worked a number of administrative positions until her asthma made full-time work impossible. Though she always brought a high level of dedication to her positions, none of them were her passion. No, my mothers passion and talent lay in sewing. She picked it up as a hobby in her teens, feverishly sketching and making her own clothes. My mom was happiest sitting on the floor, cutting out patterns and assembling creations. I have no doubts that being a seamstress should have been her career. In the six month period leading up to her death she was finally making concrete steps towards making her dream a reality. She enrolled in a course sponsored by the state to help people start their own business. Mom completed the course with flying colors, and in June 2005 she was ready to make it happen. Each time I visited her she was sewing. Every weekend she found some event to hawk her wares at. She was especially excited for the months of July and August, as our local festival known as Seafair would give her even more opportunities. But at 5:45pm on July 30th, 2005 my mother died. Days later I would sit at her computer in the middle of the night. I looked at all the notes she made, her girly bubbly letters revealing her agenda. Tears flooded my face and my frame shook with rage and grief. It seemed so CRUEL! In my head I ranted to heaven. How could you take her NOW? Right when she was on the cusp of realizing a desire so dear? It just wasn’t fair!
My father would share my incredulity and anger-albeit for different reasons. He and my mother had rekindled their love, and she planned on visiting him in California in August. My mom had requested that I go with her in order for my dad to reconnect with me and meet my daughter. Given the fact that my father had been a ghost for most of my life I was lukewarm to the idea. But as I spoke to him the day after she passed-listened to his voice break as he cried and tried to make sense of it- I suddenly KNEW. I knew that even though they were divorced for so long, even though he had not done right by me he never stopped loving my mother.
The Grim Reaper robbed my mother of her wish to make her passion her trade. It also robbed my father of the chance to try again with her and make up for his mistakes. Because of this I force myself to appreciate the gift of time. One day my time will run out, and I don’t want to leave this planet without making the most of my gift. My gift is writing. I’ve known that since I was eleven years old. My current situation doesn’t allow me the privilege of indulging my talent full-time. There are many days when, after cooking,assisting with homework, folding laundry and cleaning I just don’t FEEL like writing. I want to collapse into bed and do it all again the next day. But lately I find I just can’t do that anymore. I MUST write. Letting my creativity flow has become a necessity. Every day I vow to take advantage of the promise of the present.