My father celebrated his 87th birthday two weeks ago and my mother will be 83 on Saturday. I took this photograph while back in Wisconsin.
Every day they dress and set the table for breakfast. It always includes my mom’s homemade bread made seven loaves at a time. She expresses her love for her family through the meals she serves.
When my dad went on a salt and vitamin K-free diet, at first it was a challenge for my gourmet mom. She had to think outside the box and can, literally. While I was there, she whipped out her splattered, but loved cookbooks and concocted dinners worthy of a fine restaurant: Salmon doused in a fresh tomato ragout and pork chops with apples and cinnamon. Stir-fried fresh vegetables and meatloaf with peppers and onions. More vegetables filled that loaf than meat!
My dad is an artist and still paints. While visiting, I had him sign all of his work. Some dated back to the early 1950’s. His artwork chronicles the passage of a long life from the depictions of his farm while growing up during the depression in Holy Hill outside of Milwaukee, to many of my family while living in Madison and the latest of his beloved Collie. He has painted all of us in various life stages. My sister and I in a fantasy world at Storybook Gardens when we were children is one of my many favorites. The oil of my mother on their honeymoon shows the twinkle in violet eyes full of love and excitement over her new life with my father. Water-colored and acrylic paintings of landscapes hearken back to family camping trips and weekend jaunts in the country. All display my dad’s quiet reserve and happy demeanor. He always sees the beauty in everything that surrounds him. I like to think that I inherited that same quality from him.
My mother is one of those people who can sense when someone is hurting and rushes to help. Talk about a sixth sense, the phone always rings on my worst days.
A couple days ago, a young boy knocked on my parent’s door asking to shovel. The snow still swirled around him as he stood on their doorstep shivering. He explained that he would be happy to do the work, but needed to borrow some gloves. My mom welcomed him inside and gave him a pair of new work gloves and a hat to keep. He not only shoveled their walk as agreed upon, but their long driveway and steps. Then he asked if he could sprinkle some salt from the bag he noticed on their porch.
After she paid and tipped him for an excellent job, she learned that he didn’t go to school, but worked at McDonald’s. She sensed that something was wrong with this young boy, so she hired him to come back to help her on Wednesdays and to check in with her to help them with other odd jobs.
She plans to inquire about why he isn’t in school and to find out what is going on with his family. After relating this story to me yesterday she said, “God always works in mysterious ways. Sometimes he says, ‘Mary, I have a job for you,’ and a boy rings my doorbell. It is just how life works.”
My mom has always been an amazing role model and she is still teaching me about empathy.
The snow still falls in inches outside my parent’s kitchen window in Wisconsin. My dad will continue to paint from a photograph while my mother bakes a cake and then leafs through another worn cookbook searching for a new recipe to try for tonight’s dinner.
They feel blessed to have lived such a long life together and treat each day like a gift. It’s in the quiet moments that one can see a life well spent.
Do you enjoy the quiet moments?