Since I started this blog after Mother’s day, I wanted to revisit the holiday because I was especially moved by it this year. My mother, Joyce Martratt, has been the single most influential person in my life. I think most of us can probably say that about our mothers.
However, I am amazed that as I have gained the clarity of hindsight, I am ultimately in awe of the character, wisdom, charity and intelligence of the woman whom I have been privileged to call my mother.
I remember her as a young navy wife caring for her young sons and daughter in San Diego while her husband ( my father) was deployed on an aircraft carrier. Her oldest one was sick with asthma and on one occasion, had a high fever. Mother’s intuition kicked in and she knew that something was really wrong. My mom is tiny and about 5 ft. tall. She was 7 months pregnant with my brother, David.
Having no car, she carried her heavy, older son several blocks to the doctor. When she arrived, the doctor ( who later was described as racist) dismissed her concerns and sent her off. My mother, still acting on her instincts, set out on foot and walked several more blocks to another clinic. She arrived there so exhausted that they had to admit her also for observation and oxygen. The doctor who checked her sick son informed her that if she had arrived a minute later, he would have died. That son was me.
My father shortly after contracted a form of neuromuscular disease which resulted in his medical discharge from the Navy. This prompted the whole family to move back to Guam. My father was able to get a job at the Commercial Port on Guam as a security guard and later on as a Truant Officer in the Department of Education. My mother had to go to work to help support a family which by this time grew to into a family with five children – 4 boys and 1 girl.
I saw my mother work through a difficult period of marriage as my father struggled through a degenerative disease. She found strength through her faith.
She also went far in her career path and move into the position as the Executive Assistant to the General of the Air Force Base on Guam. She has been active in many organizations, causes and leadership capacities.
She has been an advocate of education. Tirelessly, she came home after a hard day at work and sit with each of her children to work through homework. She invested in tuition so we could attend private school. She always taught us that education was the key to success. My mother was educated and very conversant on different topics. It fueled my own thirst for education. I was always proud of that.
She always kept herself in good physical shape and in a good healthy condition. She always dressed well and carried herself with dignity without being haughty.
She did her best to teach her children good morals and standards. Many a times after church, she would ask us while we sat in the car about what we learn from the priest’s sermon. Of course, most of the times, we could not come up with a real good answer ( we mainly rolled our eyes ). However, by asking the question, she taught us, that to gain faith we must seek answers and we must learn. So we should always ask: What is the lesson? What have we learned?
My mother lived through the horrors of a concentration camp in WWII Guam ( not many people know that the islanders were incarcerated by the Japanese just before the Americans recaptured Guam). Her sister died in there.
After the war, my mother’s father became paralyzed when she was barely 12 years old. This was particularly hard on my mom. She was close to my grandfather. He was a detective on the police force. He use to travel on conferences and would bring back dolls from the areas he visited. He spoiled my mom and loved her. He loved to sing. My mother loves to sing.
Because of the pressure of her dad being out of work, both he and her mother felt that it was in my mother’s best interest to live with her maternal uncle in the United States.
In order to receive all the benefits, she had to be legally adopted by him, so she took on her mother’s maiden name as her last name when she became her uncle’s adopted daughter. She lived in Washington D.C. and then in Berkeley, CA. The truth of the matter she was treated more like a live in nanny then a relative. She loved her cousins and considers them like siblings.She had very little and was poor. It was years later before she told her own mother how she was treated during that period of time in the states. Of course, that could have caused a family melt down with her mother who did not know the circumstances her daughter lived in while she was away. . However, in true form, my mother, forgave all and asked that others do the same, including her mother.
She met my father in California when he was stationed in the Navy in Alameda in California. My mother had not returned to Guam from the time she was eleven years old until she married my father on the island when she was 21 years old.
Her dad passed away before that day. She never got to say goodbye to him.
My father passed away when he was 48 years old. My mother has remarried since then. She continues to work and continues to be active in her church. I have only touched briefly on her life. I expect that as memories emerge, I will write more about this great woman.
Here is a poem, I wrote for her on Mother’s Day:
My chest felt like it was collapsing in on itself
Like a thousand concrete blocks were being pressed down at once upon it
My breathing was a series of wheezing, weak gasps
My head felt heated with the fire of fever
I was a sick asthmatic five year old….
In the chaos of being caught in those dark, deathly shadows
an Angel Hug
It was there then…
It was there when I was frightened at night by nightmarish dreams of monsters and axe bearing killers….
It was there when I was bullied at school by some overgrown ape of a boy…
It was there when I was not chosen to play Little League…
It was there when I won Outstanding Young Man of my School and of my island…
It was there when I sought my own spiritual journey…
It was there when I finally graduated from College.
It was there when I became a Dad four times over….
It was there when my father past away….
It was there when my marriage ended…
It was there when I found who I truly was and I finally accepted myself…
It is still there….
in my mother.
Thank you, mom, for the angel hugs over the years.
Happy Mother’s Day!