In an earlier post, I wrote about the biggest thing I learned from my dad. It was not what most people would have supposed. I might not have even guessed it until after he passed away which is too bad. There is a Mike and the Mechanics song from way back that talked about that.
Today I want to focus on what I learned from my mom.
My mom, all 5 feet of dynamo, is now in her eighties. She lived in an era where if you were not well to do, you probably did not get a long education. We have never talked about it but I know she didn’t graduate high school. She graduated from the school of hard knocks.
She grew up in a combination of a single parent home and various foster homes when my grandmother was ill. I don’t know what those homes were like. She doesn’t talk too much about them other than she was exposed to a variety of religious backgrounds during her childhood journey.
She was also the black sheep of her own family. The youngest and the only one with a different father, who was not in the picture of her life, her siblings didn’t always treat her as they did each other. She adored them all though. Her brothers George and Dick were her heroes. They were the men in her early days. Her sister Shirley was as much a mother as a sibling. Yet she was always a bit of an outsider.
When she met my dad, he towered over her, and he became the love of her life. They were married for 49 years. He died before they hit 50 years.
Despite the challenges of her youthful upbringing, she overcame a lot and although she would deny it, she taught me so much.
When I was younger, we had no money. Bill collectors were always at the door and on the phone. She felt so guilty at not being able to stretch no dollars into enough she wanted to run away. But in the end, she battled and taught me how to budget when there is nothing to budget.
She always has had a plethora of cookbooks, recipe cards and a week’s menu tack to the fridge. But rarely did she measure ingredients or follow the instructions. She taught me how to blend ingredients and spices to make delicious meals on the fly. And how to ensure your family was fed when the fridge was bare.
Despite her lack of education, she worked her way up to running the office of a small oil and gas company and was the president’s right-hand person. She ran her own company that expanded to multiple retail locations. She taught me that you could work hard and despite the hurdles, find business success.
When my dad got sick and remained off and on the last 20+ years of his life, she stuck by him. When he quit smoking and, by his own admission, became one of the most miserable people to be around, she never stopped being the main caregiver, breadwinner, homemaker, and all that they needed. She taught me how to never give up on those we love.
Through much of her life, she married young remember, she was embattled by her mother-in-law. Now I loved my grandmother unbelievably, but it would have taken a willful stroke of ignorance not to have seen the hoops my grandmother put my mom through. Yet, mom never stopped that from extending her family to her in-laws. And in the end, the two of them learned to respect each other and love each other. Mom taught me that sometimes you had to stand up to earn respect and love.
My mom taught me toughness despite being afraid.
Mom was afraid of pain. Emotional, physical, mental. She hated the doctors and dentists and anything that would “hurt”. Yet, she survived two bouts of breast cancer. She stood up to bullies despite her diminutive size. She battled for her family and stayed with her husband through thick and thin.
When my dad broke his arm later in life, when septic with poison racing inside, he was in his last days. The doctors didn’t give him much time. Nothing they could do, they said. The delirium had taken over and he was more out than in this world. He would hallucinate and saw people and things that weren’t there. His demeanor was so bad fighting the sickness, the nurses often left him alone. I was visiting one night, thinking it might be the last time I would see him alive. He really didn’t even know I was there for most of the visit. I held his hand and prayed.
Then my mom walked in. He turned to her in surprise.
“Is that you?” he asked.
She replied with a yes.
“You’re still alive?” he asked.
She walked over and held his hand.
In that moment, against what the doctors told us a miracle happened. He broke down sobbing and held my mom. She was the love of his life and he had given up fighting because through the delirious state, he thought she had died too. He had given up the will to live until she showed him that she was still there for him. The love of his life was still fighting for him.
Instantly, his fever broke. In a single brush stroke of a moment, he started on the road to recovery. Their love overcame sickness.