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A 'late child' remembers her mother


Shannon Bardwell



Dear Frances, 


"Sarah said, 'God has brought me laughter and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me...'" 


I've been meaning to write you this letter for some time and so it would seem around Mother's Day is most appropriate. I've not forgotten the day you introduced me to your young Charles. You held him in your arms and showed him off, a splendid child with tassels of curly blond hair and perfectly pale skin; looking every bit like an angel. 


I remember as well how your eyes brimmed with tears and how your voice choked when you said, "I only hope I can see him grow up." The tears spilled unchecked.  


Having your oldest of four now in his twenties, no one would fault you for harboring such thoughts. I tried to soothe your doubts by sharing that I too was a "late child." 


My mother delighted in telling other mothers with late children, "This child will be the joy of your life." She shared that people continually asked, "Is this your grandchild?" 


Not because of her age or appearance she said. And that I can believe because I've seen pictures of her holding me at ten months looking more like a model than a mother. She said they asked because of her sheer joy of having the unexpected blessing of another child. She recounted her trip to the doctor when she asked, "Doctor, Am I going through the change of life?" 


The doctor replied, "Your life is going to change alright." 


Frances, after our brief conversation I went home and thought about life with my mother. She died when I was forty-six. We enjoyed forty-six years together and I think she would say she was satisfied. I was thinking of you when my nephew, Mark, stayed here at the Prairie house after the death of his mother. I asked Mark, "How old are you?" 


"Forty-six," he said. 


Mark's mother delivered him during the usual childbearing years. So who can tell? 


At the end of my mother's life it was me that cared for her. It was hard, truly it was, but I wouldn't trade those years for a million of anything. She was totally dependent on me, as I had been her. Once I took her to a senior's exercise class, one of those classes where they exercise you sitting in chairs. 


She said fearfully, "You're going to stay with me, aren't you?" 


"No I'm not," I said. "There will be plenty of other kids there." 


She smiled. How many times had she dropped off her fearful, introverted child, "Momma, you're going to stay with me, aren't you?" 


Forty-six years later I was with her when the doctor said, "There's nothing more we can do."  


I held her hand and let her go peacefully. Neither of us would have changed a moment.  


It's all in the moments, Frances. Kiss Charles for me; hold fast to those moments. 


Shannon Rule Bardwell's column is a regular feature of Monday's Dispatch. Her e-mail address is [email protected]


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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