My Mother: The Seen and Unseen

“A mother’s happiness is like a beacon, lighting up the future but reflected also on the past in the guise of fond memories.” – Honore de Balzac


Mom and Dad (Lois and Leonard), Naples Beach Hotel 2012

     We tend to think about our parent’s life centered around our own. I’m the ‘baby’ of the family (just turned 53 last week) and my mom has said in the past, “How did my youngest get so old?” The ‘older’ boys-Carroll, Tommy, and Paul-arrived on the scene from 1950 up to 1960. We are an American family.

Anita and I have two grown children, Emily and Lincoln. Although they know much about our pre-parent days, there are several years of teenage dating, college, work, living, and the two pregnancies that are revealed in highlights instead of details. When a child asks, “Why?” the parent response of, “Because I said…” is based on history and experience. The art of parenting relies heavily on unseen years that precede the children.

On this Mothers Day, I know many facts about my mom. It is easy to see that she successfully raised four boys. She has been a presence in the lives of each of us and always a supporter of the pathways we have taken through life. Shakespeare wrote,

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man (woman) in his time plays many parts.”

My mom has played all the roles very well–daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, employee (General Electric) now retired, Christian. These are the ‘seen’ roles and responsibilities that she performs daily, and does so very well. But I often wonder about the ‘unseen’ roles that she has played during her years, the thoughts in private when alone, the dreams unfulfilled, the life before me, before my brothers, before my dad, before everything.

Mom had many responsibilities in her family as her mother died after childbirth and she was needed to help raise the younger sisters. She married Harvey Dixon, a local veteran of WWII Constabulary Squadron, at a young age and had my two half-brothers, life was moving forward much like a typical rural Kentucky family in the 1940s and 1950s. I’m surprised I know so few details about her years as a young mom and wife. The story should have continued on with nothing but happiness, but many times life throws challenges unexpected. Harvey was killed in a coal mining accident Feb. 22, 1955 and Mom assumed a new role as widow and single mother of two young boys.

I’ve never once heard Mom say ‘times were hard’ or she ‘had it worse than anyone’ or that she was dealt a ‘bad hand’ in life. The tragedy of the situation must have been unbearable at the time but she never mentions it. This is one of the ‘unseen’ roles which I can envision but not know for sure. I do know that in the following years she met Leonard and in 1959 they married. Two more boys followed in 1960 and 1962 with the last being me, the ‘baby boy that was supposed to be a girl’.

If asked how one goes on in life when faced with tragedy, I think Mom would say, “Pray, trust in God, and live one day at a time.” Ask any of the four boys (men) today and all would say Mom is a steady rock in our lives. Ask the grandchildren and now great-grandchildren and they would say the same. I’ll call her today, like every Sunday, and say, “Happy Mothers Day, I love you!” I’ll realize that her greatness comes from ‘unseen’ experiences that lie beneath the surface expressed as love in the ‘seen’ world.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

About blindcaduceus

Dr. Parish is a full-time physician in Addiction Medicine and Family Medicine in Naples Florida. He is a Kentucky native and alumnus of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. His thirty years of experience has varied from non-profit and for-profit medical groups in addition to private practice. He is a member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, Thoreau Society, and life member of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society.
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2 Responses to My Mother: The Seen and Unseen

  1. Ketan says:

    The brevity of the note speaks volumes of the emotions it carries ! Well said… Sam !

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