I have a beautiful mom.
She is 79 years young and living in Iowa with my Brother Jeff, Sis-in-law (sister!) Anne and niece, Chloe. I have very few regrets, but one of them is, without a doubt, that our family is so spread out that we do not get together very often. (Some might say that this may not be such a bad deal, but I digress).
Mom was born in Harrisburg PA to British-born immigrants. The middle child of 3, mom grew up in the depression era and took on odd jobs at early age to help the family make ends meet. She met dad in the 5th grade after they'd moved to Columbiaville, Michigan (yes, it is as small as it sounds). Friends through elementary and High School, they never dated until Dad was enlisted in the Navy; they communicated by postal service and married in 1949, just shortly after Dad was discharged.
Mom is a homebody, by preference, though she did start back to work when I was in Grade 5 in order to help afford putting 3 kids into college. They did not believe in student loans. Fiercly loyal, she remained in her AAA of Michigan job as a claim agent for over 25 years. I can only remember mom calling in sick one time; that was when she broke her nose falling down a flight of stairs on her way to taking her lunch break.
Mom was well-liked. She was comfortable to be around. She was even Mrs. Riverview! (circa 1970). She could laugh with others but more importantly, she could laugh at herself. One time at a Buick Open, mom had to use the port-o-potty...badly. The only mobile potty unit without a line was a handicapper. Feigning a limp, she hobbled down the steep grassy bank as all of us in line observed. After several minutes, mom emerged and bounded up the steep bank: an empty bladder AND a miraculous healing.
She loved to clean, she loved to brag on us, she loved to be a mom. She cooked average meals but she had an extraordinary devotion to us as kids. She was VERY concerned that we always had clean underpants. They came gift-wrapped under the tree every Christmas, Love Santa. She NEVER forgot a birthday, anniversary, get well occasion, retirement yadda. She could spend literally hours in a Hallmark Store. She was strict and had high expectations of our moral character. Yes, I was paddled. Yes, I learned from it. She never claimed any major achievement (other than the coveted Mrs. Riverview title) however, she is my ace in the hole. She was always there. She is still.
In a different way. I miss mom. Her memory has been hi-jacked by altzheimers and so the woman who I would prattle away the hours in conversation with can no longer remember me. She pretends well though! Just like at the Buick. My mom is still the beautiful woman that she was; the difference is in the care-taking. I have a brother and sis-in-law that continue to amaze me by what they have been able to accomplish in the two years since dad died. Daily they show up and do the deal. The roles have reversed. Child is parent - parent is child. They provide a stable, tranquil environment where nobody gets paddled! The universe has truly shifted. I know there have been really hard days, hard weeks. I do confess that I have guilt over lack of participation in the dark realities of caring for and living with aging parent. We are also painfully aware that the day will come soon when Mom will require more ongoing care from the professional community ....this is the next agony. Real love requires great sacrifice and the very best teachers have existed in my own family. I am humbled by these giants around me. Perhaps the genius who determined we hailed from horse thieves was incorrect.
I have a beatiful mom. I think she would say that we turned out alright.
I love you, mom.
I am so grateful.