Myra Mae Seter 1/13/33 – 8/1/2020
The 4th commandment deals with parents and all in authority. In the mercy of God parents are Hus representatives on earth. He gives them some of His all seeing attributes, watchfulness, and for many, the same self sacrificing mind Christ. That they would do anything for their children for the children’s good should be an attribute of them all, but sadly that is not always the case. My mother died on August 1st and first thing she asked the last time I saw her was about my back and whether I had eaten.
She was my nemesis when I was growing up. Sherlock Holmes had the Baker Street irregulars, a bunch of street kids who watched everything and knew everything and fed their intelligence to the famous detective. I don’t know what kind of irregulars my mother had but there wasn’t much I could do anywhere in town that she didn’t know about. If I bought some pop downtown with my friends she knew where I bought it and what brand it was. I grew up in Leadville Colorado from third grade on and one of its claims to fame is the Tabor Opera House built by one of the silver barons back in the day. My theater class took a detour one day and went up and read some acts from different plays from the stage. My mother knew I was at the Tabor opera house but she wasn’t aware that I went there with my class, so sometimes her intelligence was incomplete. She knew when I crawled into a Irascible neighbor’s backyard to retrieve an errant baseball and she knew when an errant baseball went through the neighbors window. She knew when I bought a present for an erstwhile girlfriend at Sawyer McKee Drug store and she knew when I went back there and complained that I spent good money and expected a modicum of a right to privacy when I purchased things from their establishment. All the adults got a laugh out if that.
Sometimes the intelligence broke down and she really didn’t know where I was. In those cases for a family that never had a phone until I was in high school, she was incredibly efficient at using someone’s phone to call the Sheriff. He was remarkably efficient in finding me. One of the more notable incidents was the tailings pond navy. A tailings pond was a place where water filled deep areas of what once contained the effluvium from mines that had been cleaned out. They looked like pristine lakes and my brother and some friends found them and some scrap wood and proceeded to make some remarkably seaworthy rafts. Since there were several of us we decided to reenact Benedict Arnolds gallant fight against British GeneraL Carleton on Lake Champlain, before he became a traitor of course. Those were the days when we studied and reveled in history. We decided to attack each other’s flotilla with large rocks until one sank. We had just gotten into the rhythm of sailing these clumsy craft let alone trying to sink one when the Sheriff arrived and told us we were trespassing and that the water was deep and full of arsenic. There were grim predictions about any of us falling in or swallowing the water. I told him I could swim but I was the only one. He was not impressed. The next days around my house we’re not happy ones.
I could swim because my mother made me. I can remember, as if it were yesterday, my mom and dad and aunt and uncle taking me to the San Diego YMCA. We had moved there from North Dakota as a part of what some call the second migration. It was a warm San Diego night and Elvis was on the radio singing “It’s Now or Never”. I remember the warm humidity and the smell of chlorine. I remember the bubbling from the placid pool and thinking how lucky I was that no one else was there. Then I remember refusing to go in the pool when a rather large man asked me to. I remember the Marine Corps insignia on his swim trunks, and the Marine Corps Insignia on his arm when he picked me up and raised me over his head and threw me into the middle of the pool. I remember the large O that had become my mothers mouth as she stared at me through the glass window and watched me go down for the third time. I remember a kind of grimaced smile on her face when I came up swimming towards the bamboo pole he offered me. I also remember her remark to my father on the way home, that if that was what it took to teach someone to swim she could’ve done it herself.
I knew about the marine insignia because I woke every morning to a hissing sound that came from her ironing clothes. She had a bottle that I think was an old “Old Spice” container that had a cork topper with what looked like a shower head on it. She would shake it on whatever was on the ironing board and then iron. There were the brilliant Navy whites and the brown Marine utilities stacked in piles for my mother to iron. She did that from early in the morning until late at night.
I am writing these things because I promised my mother her newspaper obit would be simple and straightforward- just the facts. Some of the obits she would read would upset her and become fuel for the “what is wrong with people” rant. This isn’t a newspaper. This is a mercy blog and I intend to use it as platform to think about the mercy given us when God gave the gift of parents. So there will be more.