Dear Mom,

Your granddaughter, Molly, can recite most of the characters’ lines from the movie STEEL MAGNOLIAS. But one line everyone seems to think comes from the movie is actually paraphrased from Nietzsche: “…whatever does not kill him makes him stronger.”

Last week Jim and I clapped and cheered at one of Gannon’s little league baseball games. We were so excited when your great-grandson slid into home plate, but it wasn’t until later that we saw the damage it had done to his elbow. Gannon has just finished second grade, and this is another way he’s growing up: his boo-boos no longer require bandaids, and he rolls his eyes if I call them boo-boos…which means kissing injuries to make them better is out of the question!

You’ve had various painful injuries and surgeries, Mom, but two I’ll share now. You told me the story about the first one from your childhood, and the damage is still obvious on your foot. You and your brother Ira were playing out in the farm yard (see picture below). You were about three, and the two of you were pumping water when the pump handle came off. It hit your foot, slicing the toenail from the middle toe of your foot. Grandma cleaned and treated the wound and though it healed, the nail never grew back. Even now, more than ninety years later, you still have a little round hard nub where the toenail should be.

The second story you didn’t tell me. I was there and remember it clearly. A strange hard knot had formed on your left wrist. You used hot and cold compresses, and though the bump didn’t actually hurt, Dad convinced you to go to our family doctor. I don’t know why you took me along–I was only ten, so it wasn’t to help you drive if you needed me–but I remember everything that happened in Dr. Basham’s office. He stretched your arm and hand out on the examination table and studied the big bump. He said it was a cyst, probably a ganglia, and he turned to take a big medical book off his shelf. I thought, “Oh-oh, this is serious and he’s looking it up to see what to do.” But even as I was wondering if you’d have to go to the hospital, the doctor held your arm in place with one hand, and with the other he brought the big medical book crashing down on the cyst, smashing it flat.

We both were startled, but you gulped, took a deep breath, and then you laughed. “I’m glad that’s over. If it happens again, I’ll know what to do,” you said, and Dr. Basham laughed. But the cyst did come back eventually, and the second visit wasn’t nearly as interesting. I watched as he deadened your wrist with a shot, cut out the cyst and then sewed it up. And then you and I went and got groceries.

Maybe you remember these stories, Mom. You seem to have much clearer recollections of stories from long, long ago than of events that happened in the last hour. What I remember most about these injuries, and how you handled them, is this lesson: Accidents happen. Injuries, wounds, illnesses and pain are part of life. When they happen, you do your best to fix them or find the best people to help you. You treat them carefully for awhile, do the best you can to heal them, and then you go on.

Through the years I’ve had surgeries, injuries, and lots of pains–of the body and the heart–and I’ve remembered what you said that day in the doctor’s office. “I’m glad that’s over. If it happens again, I’ll know what to do.”

Thanks, Mom, for all the things you taught me just by being you. Love, Marylin



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren


  1. juliabarrett

    Does put boo-boos into perspective, doesn’t it.

  2. It does, Julia. Every scar I have has a story about the cause and recovery and memory. I’ve seen the lesson replay itself in my daughter and now in her children, too. Name the pain, claim it, cry for awhile as it mends, and go on. Not a bad way to look at boo-boos.

  3. Molly

    This is a FABULOUS blog entry…..Grandma was(and still is) very tough when it comes to injuries, sicknesses of the body, heart and mind. Although Grandma probably would never do what, I do when injuries (especially of the heart) occur – it does hold kind of the same rationale. I get a tattoo….it is always there to remind what I went through, and how I over came it. It is a permenant reminder, so that I can always remember how to overcome those things that seem unbearable. Grandma and I are kindred spirits (not soul mates) just from different generations!

    • Different generations, Mookie. If I got a tattoo for every injury of the heart, I’d be walking art, covered from head to toe…and permanently. But you and your grandmother really are kindred spirits.

    • Jim

      Okay, Molly, no more “Little Mermaid” bandaids for you! I smile when I remember the day you put several on your arm–one for a real boo-boo and several more for pretend ones.

      • No question where Grace and Gannon inherited it. Remember when I bought them a box of GI-Joe bandaids and they used the entire box taping each other’s faces to look like soldiers.

  4. Bit like me, although I am probably not as wise as you or your mum. My attitude is, after another row from the Dr for not making regular appointments,

    ‘You told me I’ve got this that or the other, I feel fine, what’s the point of me wasting your time or mine when, unless it’s terminal, I ignore it’ might not be the best attitude to have but it seems to work for me

    And no, I’m not going to tell you about the time our mum took us with her for a hospital appt but we were all left in the next room and I got called a ‘peeping Tom’ !!!!!!

    • Ah, Tom, the UK is not that different from the USA. And you’ve given me another perspective on boo-boos. I think there’s a story in the hospital appt. that you should write. I’ll be watching your blog!

      • Bless, I may only hint but even after 46 or so years I can still feel my face going red thinking back to it, suffice to say it involved a keyhole


      • You’ve got to love the events and memories that still evoke such strong reactions after all these years. For better or worse, these are the stories of our lives!

  5. I identify so much with your blog. You’ve earned a fan!

  6. Honoring your love for your mother. This is beautiful. Thank you for visiting my blog Simply Here.

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