When your poem is chosen by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer for her Your Daily Poem site, you can’t be anything but proud. On March 26, my Inbox contained the daily poem and this time it was my own poem, A Very Old Photograph, This poem is about my beautiful mother. I wrote this poem while looking at her picture taken when she was a teenager. She matured early and became a young woman whose brown eyes and sweet smile lured many a young man to her door. My father fell in love with her when she was in fourth grade. He left a valentine in her desk. He had printed the words, “I love you.” This was not a store bought heart, but a carefully handmade card with lace fastened to the edges.
We all love our mothers, but my mother was the single most important person in my life until she collapsed and almost died in January 1975. Only mothers can love as unconditionally as she. Are all mothers like that? No matter what any of her kids ever did, Mother forgave us, immediately, and, even if she had to punish us, she let us know she still loved us and always would. The ever-flowing spring of love and compassion that welled up inside her drew people like an invisible magnet. I don’t believe anyone ever said a bad word about my Mother.
She cared deeply for the underdog, the less fortunate, struggling people she saw every day. She was not impressed with material things, and had very few of them. But she was not jealous of others who had fine homes and cars. She was glad they could afford these luxuries. The most important thing in Mother’s life was her family. She was most proud of her children, her four sons and her three daughters. But after the aneurism burst in her carotid artery, she did not know our names. She didn’t remember having children or even being married. However, the love for us was there in her smile, her warm eyes. I think she did not know who we were, but she knew we were special to her.
Thankfully, in time, when the swelling in her brain subsided, her memory began to improve. She learned our names and learned her recent history, but she often could not remember what she had eaten at her last meal. It was during this time that our roles turned upside down. She became dependent on me and I became the one who made decisions for her. No longer could I go to her with my problems, help with my decisions and even to gripe to her about life. The gentle woman who had listened to me without telling me what I should do, who had been there for me when I needed a shoulder to cry on, who always took my side in any dispute was gone and would never return.
While I remember the new person who took her place, the mother of my youth is the image that comes to me when I remember Mother. The smell of her still lingers in my mind. I will always miss the softness of her body, the comfort of her arms around me – and my painful need for her when life dealt its hardest blow.