February 12, 2010

My Mother as My Mentor



      My mother wasn’t a “present” mom. I can’t recall any conversation I had with her beyond the normal, eg. “do the dishes” and “I need you to babysit.” These weren’t conversations, anyway—they were instructions. There were no mother-daughter chats or outings.

     Throughout my teen years she was held up as a pillar of her church and community, yet I knew the truth: she wasn’t a very “moral” person.

     She once told me her mother, my grandmother, was so overbearing that she gave my mother three choices: teaching, nursing or office work—none a choice that satisfied her. My mother chose to rebel. Her first child was born two months after her early-1940s marriage. Later I learned a secret: she had had at least one, if not two children, which were placed for adoption after her divorce from this, her first, husband.

     My older sister and I were raised by our grandparents in our early years. After moving into an apartment with our mother in our pre-teen years, she became involved with two men. She even had the “nerve” to ask us which one she should marry! We didn’t know she was pregnant at the time. She married one of the men two months after becoming pregnant a second time. My sister and I were suddenly moved from our New England home to his family home in Buffalo, New York, where my brother and three more children were born in rapid succession. I spent my teens helping my working mother and step-father care for the children while both worked full-time.

     I watched as these two ruled over a screaming dinner table and proffered discipline that is considered child abuse by today’s standards. Yes, I understand the pressures these two adults were under: raising two teenagers and four (later five) infants to preschoolers while being in their mid-to-late 30s and both working full time. Yet, I couldn’t excuse the treatment given to those children—or my sister and I. I decided I wanted a different life, and knew I had to learn from my mother. I would do the opposite of what she did. Later, I realized I needed to locate a balance between following her example and doing the extreme opposite. There is a moderate root that creates balance.

     After the children grew up my mother and step-father relocated to Maine. While caring for her progressively ill husband, she learned how to drive and earned a college degree. She also began to experience nagging signs of heart problems.

     The call that she was in the hospital came January 1, 1998. My husband arranged for me to fly into the raging Maine ice storm to see her. I arrived in the evening and spent only a few minutes with her, since we were both tired, and the doctor assured me she would be OK. She died before I woke the next morning.

     During our brief conversation, my mother thanked me for a 365-Day devotional I’d written and given her for Christmas. She’d read some of it during the week after Christmas.

     “You should have it published,” she said, and encouraged me to write more.

     It was among the rare positive encouragements she gave me through our lifetime together. I accept her few last words to me as her legacy to me.

     I think about that sometimes when I sit down to write. And when I am discouraged, blocked or just lethargic about writing, those words help me push along.

     For that, I thank her for being my mentor.



MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius

Decades: An Autobiographical Sketch

Come celebrate my funeral

Honey’s Coming Home! Our cat must recuperate

Honey went home—She’s romping in animal heaven

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

What is your opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: