Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My Mom

It's unfortunate that I don't bring up topic more often, but it is fitting to do so at least now and again to remind myself and my family how important the people in our lives are.  There are so many friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers - just to name a few - who shape our lives. 

My mom is amazing.  Yup.  That's what I was going to write about.  She is an unsung hero.  She is the most loving, well-meaning woman you will ever meet.  She doesn't always say the right things at the right time.  She doesn't always dress to the nines, spend hours applying makeup or thousands on her wardrobe, or keep abreast of all the social graces that other moms exhibit.  But this woman is more than that.  She's incredible.  (And, yes, she's already signed the will, so there's no intent for scoring more of an inheritance). 

My mom grew up as an army brat.  She traveled extensively following her father's Army career.  She was the first born of nine children, gracing this Earth less than a month before Pearl Harbor. During her first few years she was raised by her most lovely mother (Florence) while her father fought the Nazis.  He was in the Battle of the Bulge.  He was in the Normandy Invasion.  He saw more things than I even want to know about.  And after the war he continued to serve, taking his lovely family (which grew to 9 children) from state to state and country to country.   And as amazing as he was, this isn't about him or my grandmother.  Because of all the moves, my mom attended 13 schools in 12 years.  One year she attended 3 different schools because of transfers. She even attended school in Germany.  Twice.  So, if she seems a little chatty, and ready to talk to any stranger, you're right.  I mean, how else would you ever have friends if you didn't speak up right away at each  new school?

She went on to raise 6 fabulous kids with the last one achieving particular awesomeness!  The first 5 were born within 7 years.  Can you even imagine?!  I seriously can't.  I can't.  But she did it.  And then, when her youngest was 7 and her oldest was 14, she had ME!  Best. Surprise. Ever! (At least in my opinion).  Six kids is just a ridiculous number, but she loves it and embraced it.  She made it work, and loved a husband fully while working inside and outside the home.  She even had the courage to move from Michigan to Texas with my father in the early 1980s.  (Now that I think about it, maybe she was so used to moving that it wasn't much of a stretch for her, but maybe it was.  I mean, she had 6 kids ranging in age from 18 (oldest sister Cathy) to 4 (sweet, lil' ol' me).  In between was Joan, Mike, Mary and Tom.  Yes, a good Catholic family.  And those four were in Junior High and High School.  What a commitment to uproot yourself and your children and move away from all of your family to a state where you know no one.  But she did it.  And my father did it (must give him some credit too!). 

Of course, the family had ups and downs and its fair share of struggles - all of which are some one else's stories and not mine to tell.  But, after making a home here in Texas - specifically just north of Houston - the worst thing possible happened.  When my mother was 48, my father died of a heart attack.  Suddenly and without warning.  In the middle of the night.  There was never any chance of survival.  It just happened.  It was.  It is.  And, after so many years, you should know that we have all moved on, healed, and acknowledge that his passing will always be a part of us, but no longer defines our lives.  So, no pity or apologies or sympathy are necessary.

Now, if there is one thing my mother can handle, it is death, dying, and a funeral.  Don't ask me why this is her thing, but it is.  She reads the obituaries religiously.  She attends funerals for her friends' relatives even if she's never met that friend's relative.  She just wants to be there for that friend during his or her difficult time, even though it seems odd to all of us children.  But when her husband died, it was different.  It was closer.  It was death in her own home.  She had never had anyone so close to her die.  Her parents were still alive.  His parents were still alive.  All her siblings were still alive.  All of his siblings were still alive.  Her father had survived the war.  And so, her first experience with a death close to her was the death of her best friend and lover.  I don't know how she did it.  None of us does.  But she pulled it together.  I never saw her break down, even though I'm sure she did at some point.  I'm not saying she was calm, graceful, and composed, because who can really be all those things when the love of their life dies?  But, she handled us all.  All 6 kids.  She pulled us together. She was strong for us.  Now, I must remind you that this is told through the eyes of a child because I was only 12 at the time, but that's how I saw it.  That's still how I remember it.  And she remembers it like it was yesterday.  And if you ask her about it, be prepared for her to launch into a story full of honesty and sometimes shock.  She is a woman who holds nothing back.  Never has, never will.

The most amazing thing about the event that indelibly affected my life, the lives of my siblings, and most importantly, my mother, is that she didn't sink into darkness or inactivity.  She didn't give up.  No. She charged forward making a life for us.  All the other kids were adults at the time.  But I was still a dependent.  I may have been a suprise but I was with her for the next 6 years as her companion.  We had a special relationship.  Still do.  She decided to go back to college to get a degree - something she had always wanted to do.  We spent our nights together studying.  She came to all of my high school events - because she could.  We ate dinner together every night, and almost always, it was just the two of us.  We vacationed together alone.  We spent our summers together in Michigan at her parent's house.  We visited my dad's grave together. 

We did it all together for six years.  So, it was perfectly fitting when she graduated from college the same month I graduated from high school.  No one could be prouder of her accomplishments, except maybe my Dad from Heaven.  And as if she hadn't accomplished enough, she went on to pass her CPA exam and began working at an oil and gas company in downtown Houston - becoming part of the rat race.  She loved it, starting a career in her 50s.  What a woman.  What. A. Woman!

During the years that followed, she watched the remaining five of her six children marry (my brother Mike is the only one who had my father present at his wedding - lucky guy).  She wrapped each newborn grandchild in her arms of love.  And she follows their daily lives through Facebook if they allow her.  She adores them.  She showers them with love and attention.  And the rest of us, sort of take her for granted.  Sure, she's amazing, but she's still our mom.  And she still annoys us just like your mom annoys you with her silly quirks and habits.  But the truth is, that on the most basic level, we love her so much and we owe so much of what we are to her and what she has done for us.  Sacrificed for us.  For example, if she hadn't taken the plunge to move to Texas, not a single one of us would be with our spouses.  Not a single one of us would have the careers we have.  We have been blessed by her, by our father, by Heaven.

So, on this day, I just want to shout out to her how grateful I am for her.  Tell her that my daily teasing and groaning and moaning about this or that, is simply the surface level emotion I'm experiencing, but that she is one of the most important people in my life.  Always has been.  Always will be. 

I love you, Mom.  I love you so much.


Angie said...

Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

Mom said...

I love you so much. You make me cry, but I still love you. Thank you for such a sweet posting.