Mom’s Wings

April 22, 2017

Dear Tai,


I just discovered a letter my Mom wrote to me on April 29, 1978, knowing it was going to be the last letter she would write to me.  i.e Just before she died.   

Doing just the numbers.

2017   1978  It was written 39  years ago in 1978, while I was born in 1944.

So, it was 34 years…… the number of years I had known her, at that time

This simply means that I have now been around longer without her than I was alive with her.  And, since I “left home” around 1966….i.e. at around age  22.  If so, I’ve lived without her for 50 or so years .  Yet, for sure she’s been with me ever since that time, and been a huge influence of love and positive attitudes all this time.  In that letter, she quotes extensively from

Under His Wings

  1.   Under His wings I am safely abiding

        Tho the night deepens and tempests are wild,

         Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me;

          He has redeemed me, and I am His child

Chorus:  Under his wings

Who from His love can sever?

Under His wings, my soul shall abide

Safely abide forever.

2. Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!

How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!

Often when earth has no balm for my healing,

There I find comfort, and there I am blest

3.  Under his wings, O what precious enjoyment!

There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;

Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me;

Resting in Jesus I’m safe evermore.

It’s amazing, really, that when new or current music is playing, all thoughts of another time or person go flying out of my mind. This hymn is a massive contrast in lyric or melody to any thing you listen to, the lyrics to which  are very demanding in and of themselves, crowding out any thoughts of these early super sweet albeit cloying songs of either shelter or wings.

But to get back to numbers.  My version of the song as purchased sung by Slim Whitman only has verses 1 and 3.  You can listen to a choral version if you wish: She wrote them out for me, so I rewrote them here.   If you don’t like that, then you can find the Slim Whitman version, if you hunt.  Warning, he’s country that guy Slim, as you would guess.   

It also follows that I believe verse 2 is the best one.  Note that He, His, Him, and Jesus are all capitalized.  They are capitalized by my Mom, too. The focus is upon the solitary sense of Jesus as God.  It is He who saves in a crowded world.

And how is it possible that I’ve been alive longer without Her than with Her.  She is still with me every day and specifically every morning.  Her words echo powerfully through the years.  How can I have simply type “her,” in lower case, when She remains with me every day?  Every morning when I make coffee, I measure out 6 spoonfuls of coffee, and then think of my Mom in a blink beaming with joy to “chime” in:  “and a pinch to grow and inch.”  She sometimes would accompany that with a real pinch, or a nudge, and always said it with joy.  It was as if to say isn’t life grand? So I add a “pinch” more of grounds.

I stayed at my sister Myra’s house this recent week-end, and when I arrived on a Sunday, proceeded to stay two nights at her home.  Tucked in the back bedroom there, on Rose Park Drive, is the bed I had seen since I was a kid.  The bed of my parents.  Certainly the mattress is new, now but the carving and style of the bed-head was the one I remember clearly after all these years.  The carving was gentle, spare, and graceful, and of a dark walnut wood not often used anymore.  Gentle swirls and waves.  My sleep there for those two nights was peaceful, which entirely makes me think that their collective memory is also filled with grace, peace, and sweet intentions.  Sleeping in my mother and father’s bed.  No nightmares, and no guilt, though no sex was imagined on this bed by me either, even when they and I were  young.  It is quite true, that my parents were not considered by me to have ever had sex; while I tangentially aware that it had probably happened.  I certainly never was told anything about sex by either of them.  Stuff I had to learn later.

Oh Tai, how she’d have loved you, and you, her.  I know Melissa often says that about her adoptive granmother, but this would have been the absolute real deal.  You wouldn’t have been able to tolerate her prayers, maybe, which she’d do out loud before and after meals,  or her reading the scripture, each evening, (in the style of the hymn, I’ve quoted) but you’d have loved her.  Maybe you’d think She was too sweet, but it wasn’t exactly true.  She was more fierce than sweet.  The story I thought about recently in my gym when talking with a kid about his gorgeous artistic “ink,”  is about the time she discovered me to have unknowingly gotten a drunken Indian cartoon sketched  on a shirt for me at the beach.   Artist/cartoonist friend of mine.  I thought it way cool, rather like the most foolish cartoon taboo you’ve ever seen today.    Well I brought it home, and showed her my shirt proudly, thought it so cool and funny.  When She saw it and told me to march right back to the kid who’d drawn it, and get the swastika eliminated from the Indian’s loin cloth. I Or, if I’d rather, she’d burn it.   Did I know what the swastika stood for?  (I  hadn’t really thought about the fact that the goofy drunken Indian had a loin cloth on, much less registered the fact that there was a swastika on it, and that it meant something. )  I had simply thought it goofy/funny.  It was then I learned again the fierceness, temper, and demand for rules that She had about certain things.  This was one of them.   I might have been 6 inches taller than She, knew when it wasn’t a time to speak back  You’ve heard that voice!   Or that obvious chance that that shirt would be pitched into the incinerator in the basement.

She’d come home at each night during the school year,  you know,  with a little wicker picnic basket filled with grade school exercises from her kids.  She’d cook dinner, simple dinner which she had charted out  in menus for the week on a bulletin board.  The menus mean’t she didn’t have to think about it, had brought home the ingredients she would need, and could whip it up serving a bit of variety during the week.  Probably similar stuff week after week, but organized for easy effort.   Then pretty much every evening she’d spend an hour or two correcting the papers; you know check, check plus, check minus.  Not heavy lifting, but time consuming for her. If I ever had a chance to walk down the main street of my little town with her, she’d be continually greeted by adults who would say, “Mrs. Van Dyke, I don’t know if you remember me, but you were my 3rd grade teacher. “  (She taught most early elementary grades, I’m just using 3rd as an example) Most of the time she would remember.    And walking with her was like walking with a “rock star.”   She was certainly loved as a teacher.  She was simply a short, goofy, bundle, of enthusiasm and energy.  I know she lived for others, more than herself.   Loved teaching, loved children, cared for them.

To best describe her I would use the biblical story (New Testament) of Lazaras’ sisters Martha and Ruth which she used to describe herself.    Luke 10:38-42.  In case you don’t feel up to looking it up, one of his sisters was Ruth, and she was a lounger, willing to hang with Jesus, rather an entertainer/lazy bones-type.    Martha, on the other hand, was a worker-bee, made the cake, did the dishes, loved to get the whole place spick and span, etc..  My Mom always identified with Martha, wished she could learn to kick back but simply couldn’t do it.  So when she went down (evening would find her) hitting the pillow hard after a strenuous, busy day,.  Maybe that’s why I could sneak into the house drunk, without waking her up.  Just maybe.  Any time of the day, though, her energy was contagious.  She was a sprinter.  You’d have loved her.  She’d have loved you.  She always had plenty of room to love. 

This letter is now being worked on on my Thursday/ work for HABITAT FOR HUMANITY worker-bee myself, day, so I’ll just close and send it off to you, lest it get too long to have you even read it. 

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