Posted by: Maryann McCullough | May 1, 2011

Story for May 2011

A PATCHWORK OF A PERSON

 

I feel their presence on my skin and in my soul. Like the handprints of the sculptor on his clay, they have given form to this adult child. Long gone from this earth, their voices still play in my head on a recurring basis. Be it nature or nurture, Martin Francis and Mary Ruth have left their marks on me.

I take pride in, “Are you ever your mother’s daughter” or, “Your stories remind me of the way your father talked.”  Neither parent was cut from common cloth. Each was admired by friends and neighbors and business associates.  Certainly, the favorable comparisons are welcomed, but the less than glowing are equally valid. As the mirror reflects my mother’s smile, a look deeper look shows her faults comfortably residing comfortably inside

As mother of ten, she had controlling down to master craftsman status.  That may have been for her a necessary fault. While I still rank as journeyman, what I learned I learned at the feet of the master; though I, with only three sons, am less entitled to this vice.  I correct misbehaving unsupervised children in department stored. In an attempt to improve their lives, I offer well-intentioned unsolicited advice to my husband and sons, giving cookbooks they don’t want.  Or singing praises of their girlfriends before the melody has been heard in their own hearts.

 Why does it happen like that?  The faults so much easier to emulate?  My mother’s  virtues were many. Why couldn’t I have inherited her faith?  Her energy and efficiency and organization?  By nine in the morning, she would had been to Mass, done several loads of laundry, gotten various numbers of small and large children breakfasted and off to school.  I tend to roll out of bed around nine and I have never been able to pray with the child-like confidence with which her prayers were uttered.

But she did teach me that a mind was supposed to ask questions, be open to new ideas and never stop learning. I admired that about her — a high school graduate in a world of those with more impressive credentials. I hope I have done her proud with where my mind has taken me..

My dad had a hand as well in shaping my gray matter. He was a great “big picture” man, quietly logical in his conclusions. He listened more than he spoke and when he spoke, there were chasm-like pauses as he framed his words. Neither he nor I could speak until we had chewed each word at least twice to make sure it was the right one.  From him I learned to enjoy mind games, brainteasers, intellectual exercise. He and I each peruse magazines by thumbing from the back to the front.  Neither virtue nor vice, it’s just part of his handprint on his firstborn. And we both love peace.  My mother enjoyed taking on all comers (rude sales people, unfair teachers, pompous politicians or prelates).  The high and the mighty could be laid low by an elegantly delivered chopping off at the knees whereas Dad and I ascribed to the “Let’s see if we can solve this working together” style.

My father had a keen mind. His nature was gentle and his words were wise, His head spent time in the clouds when it should have been down here on earth. I recall from my high school days the time he wrote and sent out a beautifully crafted invitation to Saint Luke’s annual major fund raiser. However minor details such as date and location for the event never made it into that letter. His firstborn, (that would be me) was discovered wearing two different color shoes to work one day. Surprisingly, they were not even the same height heels.

And so, like some patchwork quilt, I live with bits and pieces of my parents woven into my fabric. I miss their presence in my life., but here is comfort in knowing that they still live on.  All I have to do is to take a good look in the mirror.                        

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Responses

  1. I really like the imagery here–the sculptor and the patchwork quilt. Lovely, Maryann. As always!

  2. Hi Maryann, Very nice piece, as usual. We can never know how much we will miss our parents and others until they are gone. You have memorialized your parents wonderfully. Truly, Margie.

  3. Divine Diane… the party indeed continues.

  4. Such a wonderful tribute to your parents, Maryann! Love the patchwork quilt and sculptor images. Although I never knew Martin and Mary Ruth, I am glad to “know” them through the wonderful stories you’ve shared–and especially because I know and love the firstborn square of that patchwork quilt!

    Your reflection reminded me of Mary Pipher’s last chapter and concluding passage from “Seeking Peace” as she looks at her family gathered on the occasion of her 60th birthday. She writes, “We are nestled in the womb of time, where all walls are made of love. Long after everyone in this room has crossed over, our DNA will continue to swirl in new bodies. Our eyes will shine in new faces. The party will go on.”

  5. Love this Min…remembering Mom and Dad is one of my favorite trips to take! Speaking of mind trips…do you ever wonder where Dad went when he paused on the stairs, in the middle of putting on his shoes, eating breakfast, having (or attempting to have) a conversation…etc? xx


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