What’s In a Name?

By , March 10, 2017

I’ve often pointed out that we started this blog to keep our friends and family updated on our life off-grid. It didn’t take long for new friends in the wider Internet world to outnumber the handful of friends, and fewer family members, who read these pages from time to time, so I rarely speak directly to the family. This post is a minor exception. If the rest of you care to bear with, some of what I write here may resonate with you.

My mother died in 1998 (see A Cup of Coffee That Brings Tears to My Eyes). Dad eventually remarried in 2003, to a wonderful woman named Nada. As I told her on their wedding day, which Aly and I attended (Aly served as a candle lighter in the ceremony) she is the answer to my mother’s prayers. Mom worried about how Dad would cope with her loss, and she could hardly have found a better replacement for herself had she gone out and hand picked Nada.

I have grown to love Nada dearly, but for the last 14 years I never called her Mom or Mother, always by her first name. Mostly, I avoided it for my own comfort, and to memorialize my one and only true mother. Never mind that I acquired a mother-in-law I both learned to call “Mom” and respect as a mother of my own some 16 years before my mom died. Also, I felt a need to respect my siblings, who also mourn Mom’s loss. Finally, it’s a practicality: the name “Mom” bandied about among three generations often adds confusion to the conversation.

About a year ago, I realized that Nada had earned my respect, my love, and devotion; I recognized that she has been a mother to me these last 14 years. I also began to understand that my mother would not be diminished by this; in fact, were she able, she’d probably give me a swat on the arm and tell me to be more respectful of Nada!

Recently, I’d sought a way to approach Nada on the subject, ask her forgiveness for being so stubborn about it all, and ask her permission to begin referring to her, simply, as “Mom.”

As chance and circumstance would have it, while I pondered the most eloquent letter, or one-on-one phone call, I ended up traveling south to help manage their household while Nada recovered from a slight stroke. So, I finally blurted out my thoughts one recent afternoon as we sat in the living room. That’s all I needed, and all it took.

So, family, and friends who knew Gertie, I’m now training myself to refer to Nada as Mom. It will take some doing. I joked with her the other day that it took me 14 years to decide to call her Mom, and it’ll take me another 14 to train myself to do so consistently.

As a pointy-bearded Englishman once asked, “What’s in a name?” Quite a bit, I’d say, depending on the name, and its connotations. It is time to widen my emotional horizons again, and increase the family (see Space and Time Enough for Family).

6 Responses to “What’s In a Name?”

  1. Jeannie says:

    Mark, this makes me cry in a good way.

  2. Virginia White says:

    Mark, I’m so glad that your new mom has recovered without a lot of disability, and that you get along so well. I wish her a long and happy life.

    Virginia White

  3. Mark Zeiger says:

    Jeannie! I didn’t realize you read my blog!I”m touched!

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thank you, Virginia, I’ll tell her you said so!

  5. John says:

    I call my mother “Mom”, and my mother-in-law “Mother”. It gives respect to both, uses the most personal title (Mom) for my own mom, and clarifies (at least to my wife) who I am talking about or to.

  6. Mark Zeiger says:

    John, I like your idea! I hesitate only because I’m of the generation when calling one’s Mom “Mother” was roughly the equivalent of her using one’s full name: an indication of disagreement or trouble! I should consider this, though, because right now, as I try to train myself to call her “Mom,” I could easily use “Mother” instead. I’m working at it anyway, now’s the time to choose the term carefully.

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