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Monday, 12 May 2014

My Many Mothers, A Mother’s Day Tribute

By Carl Hansen

My mother died of massive blood loss shortly after I was born. Faced with the task of caring for an infant and my two older sisters, age 10 and 12, my father asked his recently widowed mother to come to Denver to help us - and come she did without hesitation.

Grandma Hansen turned out to be the first of my “many mothers” living in our house through my public school and college years; living long enough to be able to celebrate my graduation from college and seminary, my ordination, my marriage and the birth of two of our daughters.

She had a deep love for her family, her Swedish roots, as an emigrant to America, and a love of playing pinochle whenever our extended family came together.

In the early months of my life, I had a serious case of colic which meant I subjected those around me to extended episodes of crying which occurred frequently and often lasted for several hours.

Dad felt that this condition added more stress than was fair for his mother as she settled into a new home and new responsilities, so for a period of several weeks I lived with the second of my many mothers, my aunt Ethel and her husband Oscar, who had never had children of their own.

When I started full-day classes in elementary school, a third “mother” came into my life - another aunt, Ellen, who also had no children. Aunt Ellen and her husband, Emil, lived less than a block from the school I attended from kindergarten through sixth grade, enabling me to walk to their home for lunch each day.

Their home also sheltered me when I suffered from childhood ailments such as the measles or chickenpox and over time I became quite attached to them - so much so that one occasion the attachment led to the one and only time my dad was angry enough to give me a spanking.

I don’t remember what it was that I asked for one day but I do remember that when he said “no” I made the mistake of telling him that I wished I could go live with Aunt Ellen and Uncle Emil instead of our family home.

That did it; the belt came out and the punishment commenced. It did not last long and I don’t know which one of us cried harder through the process, me or my dad.

Another of my “many mothers” came into my life through a friendship with a classmate from Sunday School, a friendship which has lasted my entire life.

Whenever I spent time at his home, his mother, Lily, treated me as if I were a member of her family - even taking on the smelly task of helping me get cleaned up when I tried to run over what I though was a pile of dirt behind their barn, only to find myself buried up to my waist in cow manure.

Marriage brought into my life not only the woman who has been an indispensable part of my life and vocation for nearly 55 years but also her mother, Charlotte.

Horrible mothers-in-law may well be the staple of comedians but Charlotte was the complete opposite of those stereotypes. She never meddled and she and my father-in-law, Tom, were always there for us in times of joy as well as times of difficulty.

Her love for me and for my family was deep and generous and when death took her from our family circle a few years ago, her passing was difficult to bear.

Soon we will give tribute to mothers on that special day dedicated to them in May. I will give thanks for the one who is the mother of our four wonderful children and for the mothers in extended our family who have blessed us with six wonderful grandchildren.

But as I do this, I will also give thanks for Grandma Hansen, Ethel, Ellen, Lilly, and Charlotte - the many mothers who have shaped my life, my values and my faith from the earliest days of my sojourn on earth.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


What a wonderful life you had with all those mother's who entered your life at various times. Your remembrances of them are a credit to their love for you and yours for them.

Carl, What a wonderful tribute to the many mothers in your life. It is so touching with all the fine details and imagery.

You're a natural story-teller.

Such a heart-warming story and you told it so well. I am pleased that you shared it in Ronni's Story Telling Place. Thank you!

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