Russ recently took these pictures of me when we were out to dinner at El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma. He was on the curb taking pics when two women came up the sidewalk. I saw them and told them to go ahead but with smiles on their faces, one of them said, “Oh no. Get the shot. I’m a photographer; I know what it’s like.” I started joking around with them while Russ stuck to the task and kept snapping away.
I gave restaurant recommendations to these two pals who were visiting Sonoma. It was a nice interchange that left me feeling cheerier.
When Russ showed the pictures to me later, I didn’t see myself—I saw Mother. Plenty of people—mostly relatives—have said to me, “You’re just like your Mom.” I’m still not convinced but I secretly wish I was. I wish I’d been paying more attention to her and her way with people. When I go places now in Perham or Dent, Minnesota and people remember me or realize I’m Alma’s daughter, they share sweet stories about her, detailed stories.
She took time with people. She wasn’t in a hurry, never in a hurry.
When I see these expressions on my face, they look like Mother’s spontaneity. But maybe I have some of that, too. I’m more consciously engage with strangers now. When Erin and I were with our client having lunch in Madonna’s chic restaurant in West Hollywood, I stepped away to use the restroom. On the way, I stopped to chat with a young guy sitting at the bar who had great cowlicks. We had a fun conversation about them. When I got back to our table my daughter asked me what I was talking to him about. “Cowlicks,” I said. She looked at me weird and I thought of Mom. I may have not impressed my daughter with my spontaneity but Mom would have said, “Way to go, Babe.”
Of course, it’s easier to do things like that as an older person. I think you’ve told me that yourself. It’s easier to be goofy as we age and not care what anyone thinks.
Mom had a Dad who may have encouraged her carefree ways
While I was serious in high school (she told me later that she worried about how serious I was), I bet she was elflike. She told me stories about spending time—lots of time—with her father. He was elderly when she was young. She was the youngest of nine and Grandpa was older than Gramma by 16 years. He had nothing but time for her. Sitting on the porch, picking wildflowers, telling her stories.
She was a flirt. It wasn’t a gender thing, she flirted with life. More and more, I want to be like her.
When Mother passed, I got out pen and paper and wrote the ABCs of Alma
What follows is something I wrote the day after she passed. I published this in a post back before her funeral and I want to share it again with you. It’s been four years. This gives you a taste of who she was. Enjoy.
My mother is my champion, my inspiration, my everything. I made her promise to never leave me but I’m afraid she’s not able to keep that promise. In her last days spent in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, she has been comfortable and I have been by her side.
Some of you know her and love her. Others of you never met her but if you had, you’d have loved her too. She’s irresistible that way. Her charm, humor, and smile are ever present and infectious. She made friends with every stranger she ever met.
Every day she spent time with her crossword puzzles. In thinking about her, many words come to mind. I’ll share with you this meager list. I’m sure you’d have more to add. We love you, Alma, just like you loved us.
The ABCs of Alma
Crossword puzzle loving Alma
Devoted wife to Donald Alma – 64 years of love
“Girlie” or Alma, she answered to both
Interested in everyone Alma
Lefse making Alma
Makeup loving Alma
Neat and tidy Alma
Proud of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren Alma
Really good friend Alma
Shopping maven Alma
Watcher of birds Alma
Yellow – bright and sunny like Alma
As we move forward may we do our best to love the way you did, Mom. Big shoes to fill, but we’ll try.
Born in Hastings, North Dakota on August 31, 1932
Died in Fergus Falls, Minnesota on March 25, 2015
All my love…
AdenaMarch 26, 2015 at 8:02 am
A beautiful tribute – so wish I could have met her. But we see her in you and that’s a blessing for sure. So very sorry for your loss.
BrendaMarch 27, 2015 at 7:50 pm
Adena, thank you for your kindness. We’ve talked about our precious moms. A profound love and a profound loss. No wonder it hurts so much!
Lynn TamuraMarch 26, 2019 at 4:40 am
Brenda, I recently started following you because I love your style and personality. We have so much in common, but I need to polish my style more as I age. This post about your beloved mother touched my heart. I lost mother in Spring of 2015, and as you know life will never be the same. I’m also thinking about mom as 3/24 would have been her 82nd birthday. Thank you for your inspiration and genuineness, (is that a word??)
RebeccaMarch 26, 2015 at 8:04 am
I’m so sorry for your loss, Brenda. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
BrendaMarch 27, 2015 at 7:50 pm
So very much appreciated, Rebecca, and needed at this time!
MaryAnnMarch 26, 2015 at 1:19 pm
Oh, friend (because that is how I think of you). I rejoice that lovely Alma is at peace, I am grateful for the legacy she leaves, and yet my heart still aches for you. May you be comforted by your happy memories and by the sure knowledge that there are so very many of us who are holding you in our hearts and prayers.
BrendaMarch 27, 2015 at 7:54 pm
MaryAnn, your words are such medicine. The chaplain who was at our sides minutes after she passed looked at me straight in my eyes and said, Now you are living out her legacy. It was a chilling moment and a very proud one. I am so happy to say “I am Alma Reiten’s daughter.” Thank you for the comfort your message brings me.
VivMarch 26, 2015 at 2:16 pm
I’ve enjoyed your books and blog writing over the past few years. There’s something magical that happens in the company of your writing. Thank you so much for your work.
So sorry to read of your loss. She sounds like a great Mom. My heart goes out to you. Take good care of yourself.
BrendaMarch 27, 2015 at 7:59 pm
Viv, thank you! I feel so understood by you. I appreciate your kind words. I am in this very odd time. Hard to explain, but simple things feel good to do: making vegetable soup today, taking a walk in the chilly air, making dinner for Dad and myself, playing with their cat, looking at pictures, crying and smiling, spending time with my sister-in-law, Wendy. There was nothing speedy about the day and in that sense it was perfect. “Take good care of yourself” was accomplished today. And hopefully tomorrow too. Thank you!
Stevie SerlethMarch 26, 2015 at 2:32 pm
Brenda, your post really touched me. I didn’t know your mom but can tell by her picture that I would have really liked her. I am so sorry for your loss.
BrendaMarch 27, 2015 at 8:00 pm
I’m glad you could tell that be her picture. She was so vivacious and full of life. She loved being around young people and they loved being around her. There was nothing old or stodgy about her. And maybe that’s why it’s impossible to believe she’s gone. She just seemed like she’d be hanging out with us forever.
PatMarch 27, 2015 at 6:17 am
Clearly your heart is filled with enough joy, laughter, love and memories to last you a lifetime. Your precious Mom will be with you forever. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
God Bless and keep you close in your grief.
BrendaMarch 27, 2015 at 8:05 pm
Thank you for that reminder. Indeed, Pat, the memories are full and rich. I hope they never fade. She was so good to me. Today I thought about how she was in the world and how clearly she influenced me. I’m so grateful for that. A tall timber has fallen. It’s heartbreaking at the moment but I trust what you’re saying! Thanks for sharing, Pat.
Cindy CollierMarch 31, 2015 at 12:13 pm
My deepest condolences on the loss of your Mom,
You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
BrendaApril 13, 2015 at 7:40 pm
Thank you, Cindy. So appreciated!
SandiMarch 26, 2019 at 5:18 am
Oh Brenda, how I would have loved your Mom. All of her qualities are what my Mom has, even if when I was younger I used to go a tad crazy when she talked to everyone. And you, also, take the time to make everyone feel special, just as she did. I could tell that about you the first time I met you.
Linda BMarch 26, 2019 at 5:41 am
What a sweet post, Brenda! I bet you are very much like your mom. Your descriptions made me smile. They also reminded me very much of my husband’s grandmother, Hazel, who was also a Minnesotan of Norwegian background and so very sweet until the day she died at age 96. She was still doing her daily crossword puzzles, and thanking everyone who did the least thing to care for her. My daughter has considered naming her baby girl, expected in June, after her great-grandma, who she remembers well. May your mother’s memory always be a blessing in your life!
jodie filogomoMarch 26, 2019 at 7:01 am
You are such a story teller, Brenda. And that old photo is just so heartwarming.
Lots of love in this post, and in your life. You are so blessed…
Sandra Sallin - Apart From My ArtMarch 26, 2019 at 7:40 am
Oh, I miss my mom.My mom was filled with life, love and loving. People 20 years later still come up to me and tell me they miss her.
Now on another on a less emotional subject. That scarf. I need it desperately. Also how do you treat your skin. Look how white your hands are. No freckles. Give up your beauty routine please and tell me where I can get that scarf.
LaurelMarch 26, 2019 at 9:08 am
Just a beautiful post, Brenda. What a lovely tribute to a lovely lady. I’m sure she is proud of you.
My last job was with a company based in Fergus Falls, and I spent a fair amount of time there. It’s a beautiful area.
TracyMarch 26, 2019 at 1:25 pm
Wow Brenda – what a powerful tribute to your Mom. This inspires me as a parent to leave a wonderful legacy to my own daughter. Thank you. Lots of love from NZ
LoriMarch 26, 2019 at 2:32 pm
Brenda, your description of your Mom makes us all wish we could have known her. What a lovely tribute; she raised a good daughter!
Elaine @ Following AugustineMarch 26, 2019 at 2:54 pm
Beautiful post, Brenda! I lost my mom exactly three months after you, but in many ways it feels like she’s been gone much longer as she was lost in the fog of dementia for the last few years of her life. It robbed her of her vibrant, outgoing nature. 🙁
Cindy ScurryMarch 27, 2019 at 1:50 pm
I love that she took her time with people. I need to work on that! I’m so glad we had some time together last year! I feel honored to have spent time with you. Your mom sounds like an angel!