b. March 10, 1943, Columbus, Ohio
d. July 11, 2020, Columbus, Ohio
This photo on their wedding day makes me smile. Though they are now both gone, I’m thinking of the good they both left behind. I’m remembering my mother’s cooking, her crazy creativity, and her sense of humor.
She died last Saturday morning from complications of COVID. I haven’t spoken to her in years and our relationship wasn’t great, but I’ve started making a list of all the things she gave me that I hold dear.
1) My mother, Margaret Shepherd knew all about developing flavors when she cooked. Watching her cook, I saw when to add the garlic and onions and how long to stir. I watch myself cooking today and see these traits and how I teach my daughter Cat the same.
2) My mother was political AF. In another time, she could have been a political pundit. From where she observed the world, she always included news and politics. As kids, we were taken to Port Columbus multiple times to see one president or another. I was even given two peanuts by Jimmy Carter, because she took us to see him when he came in. (One of the peanuts survived on my grandmother’s wall for years. The other, Goober, was eaten by my brother). She was a proud mother when she took me to vote for the first time. Just as I was when I took Cat.
3) She was creative in so many ways. While my mother may have not been able to show her love in a way that I needed, she did it in ways that she could. One way was through helping us with our schoolwork. When I did a report on Nazi Germany, she helped me make a life-sized Nazi (from multiple pairs of stockings) to interrogate.
My mother was a character. A character from a book or movie that has this backstory you want to understand to see why they turned out how they did. My mother was a puzzle I couldn’t figure out and didn’t have the strength to try.
She had married at 21, had five kids, and didn’t get a chance at her own life. I can say that and see that from my 49-year-old bifocaled perch. I can say this with knowledge of how people work and behave. But, growing up as her child wasn’t easy. She wasn’t a good mother in most ways. She yelled at us, hit us, didn’t clean the house often, and was angry. But, now I see her as a woman who fell into a life that she didn’t know how to get out of. She fell into motherhood because that’s what part of her generation did. I think she also fell into not being well in a time, place, and race that never allowed for her to get help.
I hadn’t spoken to my mother in almost a decade. The years before had made it difficult to be close. I stayed away for my own sanity, but in my mother’s passing, I’m looking at all of the good in her that she attempted to give the world.
I wasn’t there when my mother died. The weeks leading up to her passing were filled with phone calls with my sister, Leslie, to check in on how she was doing. I knew her passing was going to come soon, but knowing that it was coming was the hardest part.
Life with my mother’s health was like living on a roller coaster. There had always been something or another. An injury or malady that would land her in the hospital or rehab for weeks or months on end. It started when we were children and ended with COVID.