Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tribute to My Parents - Part Three - Mom the Tolerant

Mom, the Tolerant

Today's post is the third in a four part tribute. I will be posting the other parts in the coming days.To read the Tribute in its entirety, go to

In order to have an understanding of mom, at least the tolerant mom that I remember, you must first get an understanding of exactly how much there was to tolerate. You have to understand dad to understand mom.

Dad, ever the engineer, had a desire to do things bigger and stronger. This works great if you’re planning to build a wall or hang Christmas lights. This can create problems if you’re trying to plant a vegetable garden.

Dad’s garden plots got larger and larger every year. The idea was to till a larger area but plant the same amount of seedlings, so that the rows would be better spaced, more widely spaced, and easier to work.

But that big plot of freshly tilled earth was too much for my dad’s engineering brain to resist. After all that talk about not overplanting, my dad could not resist the temptation to plant more, more, more stuff in the garden.

Not only was the garden itself larger and more densely planted every year, but the vegetables themselves got larger and larger. Most of his vegetables looked like they had be grown near Three Mile Island.

The zucchini were as large as those self-lighting logs you can buy at Christmas. The yellow squash were the size of trumpets. The tomatoes busted their own skins and became food for the birds and deer.

Dad would bring the big produce into the kitchen, like the great buffalo hunter, presenting the prize tatonka to his squaw for skinning. Mom would smile, cook it for hours, and serve it to us with a proud statement about how the meal came fresh from dad’s garden.

During this whole time, mom offered very little criticism about the situation. If asked, mom would say that she wished that our father had picked the zucchini earlier, or that she wished that he had planted less densely. But she’d only say it once. She didn’t pretend, but she didn’t nag either.

Somehow mom was able to keep a balance between saying too much and not saying enough. She was the perfect example of saying what you mean, meaning what you say, but realizing that unity is more important than the size of the produce or the taste of the meal.

She was wise enough to know the difference between those things that must be accepted because they could not be changed and those things that were worth fighting for. Her words and deeds were completely in line with each other: she displayed integrity.

Without saying a word, she taught me that people are more important than things, that loving means putting up with something less (or in this case, more) than perfection. These were lessons that shaped my view of family and marriage.

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