Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ode to Mom

Sylvia Ponder wore many hats in her life
Mother, Gramma, great neighbor, friend, and wife
But the roles I will remember most
Were made of cinnamon and few could boast
Of a better use of butter on a knife.

Mother's Day is two months to the day away but March 10th is always a mom reminder. My mom passed away 15 (!) years ago today after a sudden stroke claimed her, at what with each passing year becomes the increasingly young age of 72. Evelyn Sylvia Silverness born October 9, 1921, parted her name in the middle, using Sylvia her whole life, as did her younger sister Agnes Eleanor. She was of hardy Norwegian stock, growing up with a brother and 3 sisters in NW Minnesota. She lost her father in 1931 in the midst of the depression but her mom and the kids continued to run the farm. We heard stories of early milkings and blizzards that would blind you between house and barn, and benefited from early skills she learned with abundant fresh homemade bread and cinnamon rolls, and the shrewd knack to stretch a buck during lean times.

Mom smiled a lot but rarely laughed although the Tilt-o-Whirl at the annual county fair seemed to unleash some girlish laughter. She didn't sing much, but possessed a fine voice during our occasional visits to church. She was an inveterate crossword puzzle fan and reader, particularly of Erle Stanley Gardner (who may have been born Stanley Erle), and Readers Digest and its associated condensed book series. Ironically, I think I got more of my introspective "pondering" style of personality and love of books from her side of the family. She tended to be quiet except when she was rooting for one of her kids or grandkids at a sporting event and her work behind the scenes to get things accomplished was common ocurrence. When I'd show up with a gang of college friends in town for a weekend of Shakespeare, a brunch for 20 would magically appear. She was as comfortable in high heels as rubber boots and could wield a gun or a hammer as easily as a needle & thread or spatula. She was proud of creating a home out of the bare land of the Agate desert in Medford when we impulsively moved there in 1958, and the trees and the yard are testament to her perserverance.

There are some people you don't notice or fully appreciate until they're no longer in your life and you realize their consistent impact. Knowing the joy she received from watching her grandkids grow, I regret she didn't get the pleasure of watching them and rooting for them as they journeyed to adulthood.

The last four days of my mom's life were spent in a coma, seemingly unresponsive though her grip was as strong as ever. I was on a Pacific Power corporate jet returning from a Utah budget trip when the on-board phone rang and said arrangements were made for me to fly directly from Portland to Medford by 5:00 PM. At 4:30, with my dad at her side, my mom suddenly sat up, smiled one last time as if seeing long-lost family, and then lay down and passed peacefully.

Thanks, Mom, for a lifetime of gifts...

You'll notice in the pictures above, the one constant thing is an arm around me - to me that's the perfect metaphor for my mom... A hug waiting to happen.

1 comment:

Uncle Loren said...

Today you introduced me to your mother. Tomorrow and thereafter, I shall remember her as "a hug waiting to happen."

Good to meet you, Mrs. Ponder! I know you're proud of your son.

Loren Lesher