Iva Patricia Taylor 1947-2012

I was riding in the car on a rural Tennessee road when Mom pulled the Maverick to the shoulder and told me to get out. I was fifteen. Nothing in the conversation up to that point had led me to believe I had done anything to deserve being kicked out of the car. I had no idea what was on her mind. For all I knew, she meant to abandon me there.

But I got out of the car.

My mother was a strong woman. She was not terribly violent or anything, but she had a will and it was always the easiest course to take to simply do what she said, even if it meant being left on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

And the road was in our blood, I guess. I grew up in ten different schools, in more different houses/apartments/trailers. I've kept that wanderlust to this day, though for Mom, I think she had less choice in the matter. She was a single mother of two who went to nursing school while getting us through our early teens and took up the backbreaking work of LPNing. She weathered a lot of storms back then and was always my model for strength and tolerance.

Still, I think she had an affinity for the road. Every summer during my high school years, she and my stepfather hopped on the back of his motorcycle and drove out west, cruising through the desert and getting up to who knows what sorts of mischief. And when I left home to go up to college in New York, they packed their bags and moved to a tiny little town in New Mexico.

For three months, I had no contact information for them -- phone or address. Can you imagine in this day and age not being able to contact someone for three months? The Brunette is in Africa, for goodness sake, and I spoke with her on the phone just a few minutes ago.

Life wasn't easy for Mom at any stage, even in the little New Mexico town, but she weathered every storm that blew across her, and tried to ask for as little help as she could. And you have to give her this -- she never did that comedian mother passive-aggressive thing. If Mom said she didn't want help with something, there was nothing you could do to change her mind.

You were always better off just doing what she said.

So, my Mother. She taught me strength and independence. She is also the source of my love of reading and writing, my enjoyment of narrative jokes, and my belief that the right thing is to treat everyone to an equal amount of respect. And that in a storm, usually bending is better than breaking.

Except there was one final storm that Mom couldn't survive. In January, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and it has been a steady ride downhill since. She handled it with the independent and strong spirit I've always seen in her, but in the process I learned something else: friends are important. Mom was determined to keep from being shipped 85 miles away where her friends wouldn't be able to visit her. And her friends stepped up in an awesome way to volunteer to help her stay at home while she went through this. They were simply amazing, and I'd like to believe it's because Mom was such a dedicated and constant help in her community.

If I were mystical in the way that Mom was when we were younger, I'd ascribe the advent of this eclipse to her passing tonight. I started this road trip to come to see her off, in a way that has always been soothing to me -- driving the back roads -- and in a way that I hope honored her adventurous spirit. And about 7:30, I pulled to the side of the road, dug around for a shoebox and made a quick pin-hole viewer for the eclipse. It was spectacular, just like my mother.

And I was reminded of that time when she told me to get out of the car. I'm glad that I did what she told me, because she scooted across the bench seat to the passenger side. That's when she started teaching me to drive.

6 thoughtful messages from friendly readers:

Dixie Redfearn said...

I'm so sorry for your loss! Sounds like she was a remarkable woman, and her son is a chip off the old block. It is HUGE to lose your mother at any age. Stay strong, like she obviously was!

Zombie no longer next door said...

What a beautiful tribute post, I'm sorry for your loss.

Highway said...

Hi Abbot,

I am sorry to read about your loss. I can tell she was highly instrumental in your upbringing. Cherish her memories.

AbbotOfUnreason said...

Thanks for your comments, all.

Don Pelton said...

I'm also sorry for your loss.

Clearly she was preparing you -- from a very early age -- to continue traveling on the road by yourself.

lacochran's evil twin said...

I'm sorry for your loss, too.