Sunday, May 11, 2014
A Tribute to My Mom
Be Careful What You Wish For
Well, so, how was your Mother’s Day? Turns out the founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, would probably have hated most of what many of us did to celebrate it today. At least, that’s according to a pretty interesting article out on Yahoo today by writer Elise Sole (https://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/anna-jarvis-founder-mothers-day-231758034.html). She apparently hated printed cards, and protested candy stores, after her dream of a time to honor mothers turned into the commercial nightmare it has become. (Read the article, worth your time, in my opinion.)
Anna’s idea was much more personal than that, and she sought to specifically honor the memory of her own mother, it’s just that once things get started, people who can find a way to cash in on it, do. So, to go back to the spirit of Anna’s intention, since I just shared some thoughts about my dad who recently passed away, I thought I’d close Mother’s Day by sharing some of the thoughts and experiences about my mom. (I’d share about my wife as a mother, but she reads these things (actually edits and posts them, too!) so she might be wary of what I might put out there…
My mom passed away about a year and a half ago, having had a number of painful maladies, and after a long bout with Alzheimer’s, that made life rather tricky in those last years. She and my father were just short of celebrating their 67th wedding anniversary, and that alone says something about her. In fact, in the last few months, as dad was nearing the end of his life, he kept saying repeatedly that he never knew what she saw in him, and talking about all the things she had put up with over the years. (NO, he wasn’t talking about ME, thank you very much!) They clearly had something that worked for them, wouldn’t you agree?
Mom, in fact, both my parents, grew up in the Depression, living in the rural poverty that is so often depicted in pictures from that period. Both had large families, (dad had 8 siblings, mom had 7...I still have to count to be sure…), grew up on farms, and told stories of their walks to school and crowded houses. Mom also faced the challenge of the divorce of her parents when she was young, making the poverty even more difficult. But my parents ended up doing pretty well in life, fighting for good educations, working hard to build a business and a nice home.
Mom was a person who grew up loving to dance. Dad used to say she was really good, far better than he was. When my wife and I got married ten years ago, it was a lot of fun to see them dancing together that day again. I also have a treasured photo of my son dancing with his grandma at the wedding.
So to sum up some of mom’s great attributes, one must put her life in context. The first context is the broken home and poverty out of which she emerged to build a decent life for herself. The second context was World War II, in which dad fought overseas (never having met mom yet), and mom was one of that new generation of women, created through necessity, of women who worked outside the home, working in the factories and offices supporting the war effort.) Mom worked at a local ammunition plant in my hometown, where she had attended
They met and married after the war, and began pursuing their version of
the American Dream. Together. Business College
And that is the first tribute I will ascribe to mom. Together. She was a wife who stood by her husband as his life partner. They moved to various places as his career was forming, after an ignominious start with a private wedding in
Phoenix, then hauling race greyhounds of my uncles through Arizona to the wherever the next race was, suffering auto
breakdowns and all sorts of calamities all along the way.
The second tribute was her helping to shape the modern American woman whose work and career have value, creating opportunities of her own. She worked at a fancy hotel in
Kansas City, became
administrative assistant to a local banker back before administrative
assistants existed, and then served as bookkeeper and receptionist in the two
businesses my parents were creating simultaneously.
One of those businesses was the motel in which we lived when I was young, which meant being on call 24/7, making sure rooms were functioning and clean, while juggling her work downtown as dad hired various individuals to work at his photographic studio and she helped oversee the business of both ventures. As a result, she learned to share parenting with a sister and sister-in-law who spent time with us kids when career limited her available time. Sometimes, that was hard for her, not being able to do all she wanted with us, trusting our early form of “daycare” to make wise choices for our lives.
Her ability to manage money well meant that their long term goals were achieved, resulting in a nice home, a successful business, and a long term marriage with opportunities to travel lots of places here in the U.S., and to her heritage homeland of Sweden.
Often those travels were a combination of business and family, as both sets of siblings had scattered all across the nation with the war. And that leads me to a final topic of tribute. Family. The two women who helped mother us both succumbed to cancer at far too young ages, and mother’s grief for them was a heartache. Her father who had left the family when she was young, came to town a broken and dying man about the time I was to be born, and mom took him in, as she and dad cared for him until his death. Her family regularly had reunions in various places, and she loved being with her sisters and brothers, though was saddened that so many were so far away. But she never forgot them. She had a book in which she had everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries, and faithfully remembered every relative for each special day. That was her way of letting her family know they were never forgotten, they were loved.
Life wasn't easy for mom, but she never gave up, and was able to overcome the setbacks of being a child of divorce. And she was able to find things to enjoy, even when difficulties pressed in from many directions. Gracious, smiling, and adventurous, mom made a life for herself, her husband and her children that she did not have herself when she was a child. And in so doing, without really trying to do so, she helped redefine the role of women in
America. Thanks mom, for a great heritage. And if you somehow can read this, Happy