There on top of a pile of photos from sixty years ago, I found a small photo featuring my mother’s three children. In the photo, we are climbing on monumental stones in Yosemite National Park. I’m a head taller than Taylor who is two heads taller than Stuart. However, this story is not about her three children, but about my mother and her many other children, as you shall see.

I have many fond remembrances of my mother. She loved cheese, and was a very calm and quiet person. She was a very good friend and neighbor and learned to drive a car later in life. She was president of several organizations, after learning to overcome paralyzing shyness earlier in her life. She prepared only the freshest of foods and disliked fish. She fiercely loved her children and would go to the ends of the earth for them. What I did not know about my mother was what I will call her secret life. A life that was lived parallel to ours.

We also had another woman living in our home for 28 years. She was my parent’s housekeeper, Lula. Having someone perform all of the household duties gave my mother a lot of freedom during the daytime hours. My father usually arrived home at exactly 5:30 p.m., and our mother was always waiting for him, dressed to the nines. For many years, I never really could get a grasp of what my mother did with her free time. Whenever we went somewhere together, so many people would greet her and show their love to her. They would gush and smile while blessing her, thanking her and hugging her. I never fully understood what my mother did to deserve all of this love, but I knew that she must be doing something of vast importance.

I wanted to know more about where my mother went and what she did, so one day I made a fake excuse of being at death’s door and stayed home from school. When my mother slipped out the side door, I slipped out right after her. I had to rush because since she did not drive in the earlier years, she had become a speed walker. At first, I followed her to the poultry market on the corner of State and California. As I watched through the window, she was given some sort of paper, and then read back the information to the man behind the counter. He nodded to her in agreement and off she went again. She did not slow down for anything or anyone, even speeding across busy streets. I nearly lost her a few times, but eventually enabled myself to speed along almost as fast as my jaunty mother. She slowed down to read the paper that she had received at the poultry market, and then made a turn into a building that housed several families. She disappeared into one of the doors and did not come back out. I waited as long as I could but finally became bored and headed back home to the comfort of my own bed, since I was supposedly sick.

During those days, it was not common for a child to question the comings and goings of their parents so I never had the nerve to ask my mother what it was that she was doing during her many daytime outings. But every now and then, throughout the years, my curiosity would again get the best of me. At those times I would pull my fake sickness act and again follow my mother. The story was always the same. She would return to the poultry market, receive a piece of paper and off she’d go, again with me in hot pursuit. And each time, she would repeat her disappearing act at a different location. I started to suspect that she was a spy for the FBI. And if she were a spy, then I’d have one of my own dreams realized in my mother.

When my mother decided to get her driver’s license, my father surprised her with a little dark gray ladylike car. She practiced and practiced. She had an obsession with proper hand signals and for months, wherever she went, she could be seen with the driving manual tucked away under her arm just in case she had a spare moment to study. After awhile, she became very confident behind the wheel of her car and passed her driving test with flying colors. I had a sinking feeling inside knowing that I could never follow my mother again once she drove off in her car. There was something more to her life than what we all knew, and her eyes showed it. Her self-confidence started to shine and she was becoming a very special person with many admirable qualities. She was often the center of attention wherever we went and everybody treated her with much love and respect.

One night after my mother started driving her car, she called to say that she would be late and to ‘go ahead without me for dinner’. After that night, more calls started coming with the same message. She started receiving regular telephone calls and would jot down an address and take off in her car without letting us know where she was going.

I vowed to myself that when I was old enough to get my driver’s license, the first thing I’d do would be to follow my mother and see what it was that she was doing when she got the addresses and disappeared. Well, I finally did get my driver’s license. Occasionally, I’d borrow my dad’s spare car and follow my mother. But as usual, I never saw more than her arrival at various residential destinations. And every time, she would do things in the same sequence. She would take her bag from the back seat, disappear into a residential building or home, and not come out for hours. My impatience would always get the best of me and I’d drive off without being able to uncover her secret.

My brothers had no idea that our mother had a parallel life. My father was seemingly unaware of whatever his own wife was doing. When I asked him if he knew where our mother had gone he would answer, “She has a household and children to attend to.” I respected his answer and did not ask again. Life progressed and I ended up moving from our small southeastern town to the west coast of California. There I finished my degrees and settled down with a job, family, home and friends.

Our mother died on August 24, 2009, during the early morning hours. Our family decided on a small graveside service since our family is small and there were very few of my parent’s friends still alive. On the day we buried my mother next to my father, there were over a thousand people lining the burial site. It was astonishing to see this large crowd of people who had all turned out to remember my mother one last time. I thought maybe they had the wrong site. But no, in fact, they were indeed there for my mother. Before the service began I made it a point to connect with as many of them as I could. Through several conversations with some of the mourners, it was made clear to me what my mother had been doing for all those many years. Her secret was that she had been a midwife. She had been very well suited for this position and had all the skills and abilities to perform these duties. From what I learned, she loved her work and had a very sympathetic disposition for all of the women in labor that she dealt with. She was a quiet person and had a very calming effect during such high anxiety situations. It is still astonishing to me that my mother was a midwife. A midwife!

All of the people at her graveside had become very connected to my mother throughout the years. They had all become her extended family through the work that she had done for them. When it came time for the eulogies, many of them had their own stories to tell about when and how my mother had helped them to have a healthy pregnancy and a natural childbirth experience. Many of the children delivered by my mother, now of varying ages, were also there to pay their last respects at her funeral. All of these wonderful people were there to help send her on her way to the almighty.

It took me a bit of time to process the fact that my mother had performed so many amazing miracles without the knowledge of either her family or her friends. I question how she was able to do so much work without any of us ever knowing. She has become elevated to supernatural status in my mind. Alas, I often wonder why did she keep it a secret? Did she know that my father would have put an immediate end to it? Did she think that her children might not understand? Did she want something that she could do just for herself? Perhaps my mother knew that she was on the right path and had the approval of God, as well as the love and cherish of the many connected souls that she dealt with. May the power of holiness and the spirit of the almighty carry my mother to her just reward.

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Suellen Phillips
    Jul 10, 2015 @ 16:15:46

    Loved reading of your mother’s wonderful acts of service again. Remember reading it in your first book. No wonder you are such a sweet, giving person!


    • Sheila Clapkin
      Jul 10, 2015 @ 16:19:14

      Dear Suellen,
      I have been thinking about you my favorite editor. Thank you for your kind and delightful words.
      I was asked to re-publish this one. So I did. Thank you for remembering.


  2. Sandra Lipschultz
    Jul 10, 2015 @ 17:31:54

    I love this story. I do think that sometimes mothers/wives, who are always doing for their own families do feel that they need a “life of their own”. But one’s real nature/character shines through even with that choice. Although our mothers often do deserve to be thought of as super heroes, their family usually doesn’t realize their status until it is too late to show that level of admiration. This secret life is one way to experience it..


    • Sheila Clapkin
      Jul 10, 2015 @ 17:45:37

      Perhaps I gave my mother trouble when I was younger, but behaved later on. She did deserve much more credit than she received, but I know all she wanted was to be loved and treated with respect.


    Jul 10, 2015 @ 18:00:14

    What an amazing story and what an amazing woman you Mother was. You should be very, very proud of her for what she accomplished in life, and even prouder of the fact that she didn’t advertise it for her own glory. A truly amazing Mother!!

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  4. Nuala ryan
    Jul 10, 2015 @ 21:25:45

    In our Scriptures we are reminded “when you pray, pray in secret.” Your mother’s prayer in action leaves me in awe. Her spirituality is so exemplary …..deep. I could go on but words are inadequate. Thank you, friend.


  5. Ellen Slavett
    Jul 13, 2015 @ 21:20:40

    Sheila, that is such a beautiful story! I remember reading it in your delightful book and loving how suspenseful it was. I did not know you were writing about your mom… or did I forget? Your mother was an amazing woman! So glad you posted so I could read it again.


  6. nancy
    Jul 14, 2015 @ 07:36:44

    Hi Sheila, i think we can say”the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.’ a beautiful story about an amazing lady.


    • Sheila Clapkin
      Jul 14, 2015 @ 15:04:07

      Nancy, Thank you for the vote of confidence. I wish it were true in my eyes. But, my mother would be thrilled to hear you have written these words. Thank you for reading!


  7. Sheila Clapkin
    Jul 14, 2015 @ 14:24:26

    Ellen, I may have told you, but often Skip and I go to the cemetery to visit our parents. I think I forgot to officially thank my mother for so many things and for how wonderful she was, so at the gravesite I unload all of the thank you’s I hope I conveyed in life. Thank you for reading once again. I did printed published and you got it right!!!


  8. Carly Marshall
    Jul 21, 2015 @ 18:16:34

    Good job!!


  9. Sheila Clapkin
    Jul 22, 2015 @ 08:56:47

    Thank you, Miss Carly!!! Thank you very much.


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