I visited my parents this weekend to wish Mom a happy Mother’s day. She is struggling with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and stays in bed all day and night. My dad and I talk in front of her; she smiles and nods. It used to be the other way around. Mom had a way of dominating the conversation and Dad would smile and nod, adding a joke or story occasionally.
While there, I learned that my dad had to have the Oak tree in the backyard cut down before it fell in a storm and destroyed the house or neighbor’s house. This was not just an Oak tree. It was THE Oak tree. It was the reason I planted an Oak tree in my backyard: to remind me of childhood.
Mom and Dad’s Oak was taller than the house. Three adults, holding hands, could not wrap their arms around it. Its shade covered three-fourths of the backyard and the back of the house. The Oak wasn’t a climbing tree; the lowest branch was ten feet high.
What do my mom and the Oak tree have in common?
It is not their size. Mom did have a large presence in our family, all five feet two inches and 100 pounds of her. The tree trunk had to be cut in three sections for a crane to lift it over the house to the front yard. Anything larger, and the work crew worried the crane would tip over. A semi-truck and logging trailer hauled all of it away.
No, size was not a commonality. The true similarity was the fact that the Oak and Mom were always there in my life.
They both protected me. The Oak shaded me from the sun; Mom from everything else.
The Oak tree entertained me. It dropped leaves in the fall and challenged me to catch them. It wanted to help me improve my eye-hand coordination to improve my chances to be a professional athlete. (It seems the Oak tree doesn’t know a lot about sports.) Like the Oak, Mom would play with me. When I was home from school, she would stay home from work. We would play Monopoly or Payday for hours. Luckily, Mom had more sense than the Oak. She prepared me for the life outside of professional sports.
The Oak tree provided me with the opportunity to work every autumn. I would get to earn my keep by raking leaves, raking leaves, and raking more leaves. Every few days I was out there making piles of leaves. Of course, I spent a lot of time jumping in 25 feet high leaf mountains. Mom provided opportunities for me to do chores, help make spaghetti sauce and wedding soup. Of course, I had some fun with the chores and did a lot of taste testing.
Well, the tree is gone. The sun is setting; we know that. May all of our Moms have a Happy Mother’s Day.