What do you remember? More sharply, what comes back to you…no matter your age or how closely your memory likens to Swiss cheese. Are there kernels of wisdom that bring insight, value and are ever partnered?
On this Mother’s Day, thinking of Esther Schnell Miller, the most I remember is someone telling me, “Mark, your mother is actually an angel impersonating a human being.” At the time…don’t think I’d reached my 10th birthday, wasn’t sure what that meant. Some thoughts of “heavenly and not human” came to mind, I am certain. And yet, Esther Miller? Two words come to mind: energy and compassion. Well, make it three: sense of humor.
I remember once, after she screwed up Valentine’s Day by walking across the street hundreds of feet from an intersection, getting clobbered by a car. She flipped up on the hood, cracked the windshield and landed on the street. A jogger screeched to a halt, ran to my mother, blood more than oozing from her shin and said, “Ma’am? Are you all right?” Mother hadn’t lost consciousness…or her sense of humor as she responded, “Well, how about this? Some way to spend Valentine’s Day, isn’t it?”
Then two days following surgery for two compound factures, I was visiting her in the hospital. Another lady was brought to the room—for the other bed. About my mother’s age…she, too, had been in a pedestrian accident. Accompanied by two relatives—her grandchildren I learned later—in their mid-20’s. We were excused to the hall by the nurses. One of the grandchildren inquired of me, “Can you tell us what happened to your wife?” Oh boy. My mother thought it was hilarious! I thought it was imperceptive.
Two more incidents that will never leave:
Mother had retired…sort of. She loved to walk. Still in our home residence on the corner of 25th and Holman in Portland, one day Esther Miller walked a mile, almost literally, west on Ainsworth to Union Avenue, knew of a retirement home. Walked in and asked the manager, “Are there two ladies here who have no visitors?” Mother got their names, visited them to bring comfort.
Finally—although the list is inexhaustible, Esther Miller didn’t know how to complain, was incapable of spelling wine with an “h.” Back to the hospital scene, we walked the halls—she in her wheelchair, her leg wrapped heavily from the surgery. Would be months before she’d ever walk again. Coming the other way was an elderly lady in a wheelchair. She had both legs amputated at the knees. Mother smiled and greeted the lady. Back in her room Esther Miller said, “See, Mark? Don’t forget. Other people have their own trials too.”
The summer after the surgery, in August, we went to Cannon Beach, the most wonderful place on earth. Mother got out of the car on her own…took a few steps with a cane…then handed the cane to me. We then walked—sure, gently and I held her arm—or, more properly she held mine. Went to the shore of the Pacific Ocean, the waves lapping gently to her feet. She sighed. “Mark? God loves us. Never forget that.”
The angel impersonating a human being has been doing her caring in heaven now. I do hope, though. When she walks she knows where the intersections are.
Summing it all up: Mother? Happy Mother’s Day. The only way I can tell you how much I love you…stand with me at the ocean shore…and count the waves.