Broaden Your Horizons

Feb 09, 2009| 0 Comment

We all remember sayings and admirable quotes that we heard and eventually learned in childhood. In fact, many of these quotes were so ingrained in us that we turned around and used them on our own offspring. The pattern will continue. It is programmed into us.

One of the quotes I remember my mother using was more an urging than a quote. “Broaden your horizons,” she would say. These simple words did make an impression on me. So much so that I even used them as the topic of one of those mandatory college essays one had to write to gain entrance. Back then, my mother meant these words more in the sense of “get a good education”, “go to college” and “get ahead”. That is certainly what I thought when, as a naïve 17-year old, I wrote that college essay. Little did I know that they were going to stay with me and impress me throughout my life.

Pauline Wilma Brna Julius, my mother, died in her sleep in the early hours of Monday, February 9, 2009. She was 93 years old. She lived a good and long life. Though widowed young, she raised two children on her own and was rewarded with their love. Her greatest rewards and joys, however, were the births of her four grandsons, one granddaughter, and one great granddaughter. 


Bill and I flew with Berlin, her great granddaughter, from Arizona to Massachusetts on my mother’s 90th birthday. What better gift could there have been to give her? It proved a fond memory for all of us.


The last ten years were not kind to my mother. What can be said about dimming eyesight, weakening body and failing mind? They were as hard for her to endure as for us to watch, though for the last two years, we were more aware of the approaching end than, fortunately, she was. Each time I flew back east to visit, I left knowing that it could be the last time. I tried to imprint that final kiss, hug and look. Our last visit was December shortly before taking off on this trip on Avante. It did prove to be the last one, and I have a good memory of it. She was happy and attended to by two very caring and up-beat nurses.

Those who knew my mother as a younger, vibrant woman knew she never sat still. She was full of energy, always needed to be doing something, always wanted to feel she was helpful. She also had a fetish for anything to do with laundry: washing, folding, ironing, mending, whatever had to do with clean cloth. On her visits to us when our children were young, I used to go crazy thinking up things for her to do to keep her happy and feeling involved when she wasn’t either reading to or playing with the boys. I finally came up with the laundry. I would save up laundry for her to do. (She would have done the housework if I would have let her!) When it came to the boys’ socks and underwear, as far as she was concerned, the only way to make sure they stayed white was to bleach them. Bleach they got. Lots of bleach. The cotton/synthetic blends of the boys’ socks and underwear did not take well to all that bleach. Within a week after her 3-week visits, one or all of her grandsons would show up in the morning with drooping underwear or socks that had stretched out to unbelievable lengths. Bleach at work! I never told her, but it is a fond and funny memory I have of her. Replacing underwear was nothing. Her feelings of being involved, helpful and useful in her daughter’s houseful of three rambunctious boys were what counted the most.

Those two nurses had blessedly keyed into my mother. Thinking ahead to ward off any sad feelings at my leaving, they brought out of a bag of socks just up from the laundry. A whole bag of socks that needed to be paired up and folded together! My mother was delighted. I found out that they did this for her every evening after dinner and before bed. This simple task made her feel needed, loved and, for however long, involved in the life around her. Seeing her happy at that moment of leave-taking was wonderful. It is a memory I can smile at and one I will hold as dear as the one of those bleached-out, stretched-out socks.

Memories like these are precious. They ease the pain, but they are stagnant glimpses of the past. What she gave me in the memory of her encouragement, “Broaden Your Horizons”, is a thought that has echoed in me over the years and with maturity has broadened and deepened in meaning and purpose. “Experience more”, “see more”, “do more”, “do not be afraid”, “seek adventure”, “do the new”, “go, girl”! Though you will not see me signing up to blast off to the moon, there is much I have done with those words as my guide. I do wish I had thought to tell her this. Perhaps she knew just by watching the steps I have taken, the choices I have made, and the new horizons I have explored. One thing I know for sure is that I will pass those words on to my granddaughter, her great granddaughter. Berlin will know who told them to me. I will tell them to her and hopefully, she will live by them, too. A legacy to be passed on. Grab life, live it fully, and go, Girl, go!

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