Makes me miss my mom. Seriously miss my mom. Because we are right in the middle of the Olympics every other commercial is about someones mom and how they got up and took them to swim practice at five A.M. every morning and sacrificed so that their child could succeed and all I can think is, yep, that is my mom.
Now I am not an Olympic athlete by any means and I did not have any practice at five A.M., ever. In fact, when my mom insisted that I go to band camp one summer, which meant getting up insanely early to go march around on the football field all day in the heat and humidity that is South Western Pennsylvania in mid June and July, I locked myself in my room and crawled into the attic refusing to come out until she relented. I believe she told my sister that I would come down when I got hot, which is the same response most would give to that cat stuck in a tree that would come down when it got hungry.
My mom is not the helicopter parent that you see more and more of these days. And I am not referring to her as having parented, past tense, because she will always be my mom. There will never come a time that she is not my parent, no matter how old I become. My mom will always be the hard loving, hard-working, do-anything-for-you-as-long-as-you-have-tried, incredibly tough, incredibly compassionate, rock of my life.
I say my mom wasn’t a helicopter parent because though she would help us when we needed it, she made us try to do it on our own. All of us had chores from the time we could stand. I have a picture around here somewhere of a five-year old me standing on a kitchen chair at the sink, drying the dinner dishes. All of us had responsibility handed to us to test our capabilities. All of us had to try, fail and try again. She didn’t have the option of being a stay at home mom, though with the three of us kids that may have been harder on her. Both of my parents had to work to support us. My dad had a full-time job and was seemingly always at work and my mom had so many jobs that I don’t know how she managed to stay sane. Working during the day, then coming home to the farm and working some more, she still somehow managed to put herself through college in my tween-age years and be the Salutatorian of her class to become an RN.
Becoming a Registered Nurse was a great career choice for my mom. She is a tough cookie, mentally and physically. She is flexible and pragmatic, which are great traits to have when you work with the sick, injured and dying. I’d like to say she was born that way and maybe she did inherit a bit of stubbornness, but she got a whole lot of that toughness from a rough upbringing.
You see, the amazing, loving grandfather that I knew was not the father she had known. My mom had it really hard growing up and her dad didn’t mellow out until after we grand-kids came along. My grandfather had been brought up by a physically and verbally abusive, alcoholic father, during the depression. His father had once tried to sell him as slave labor to another farm, only to be caught by one of the older brothers during the act and run off. So it may seem quite obvious that my grandfather hadn’t been given the tools to be a good dad. I think that he truly regretted the way he had treated my mom. The way he treated us grandchildren, looking back, seems like an act of repentance for all of those old scars that he had left on my mom.
This type of upbringing could have made my mom into a bad mom herself. She could have continued the cycle of violence and abuse that goes who knows how far back in my family. She could have given up trying to make herself better and lived a life filled with apathy and disdain, but she didn’t.
My mom took those criticisms and that hurt and made a conscious effort to be a better person. She pushed herself farther and harder than I have ever seen a person push. She would come home from a night shift at the hospital, sleep for a few hours and then get up and take care of the farm and her family all day only to go back out and do it all over again the next night and the night after. She kept herself fit and healthy and pushed her physical boundaries hard. To this day I remember her throwing hay bales that some guys had trouble lifting.
She taught me how to cook, sew, clean, build, and fix. Hell, one summer my dad left for work and when he had come home later that day he found my mom, sister and myself putting on a new roof. She taught me the sheer joy of knocking down a wall with a sledgehammer and how to put on a brave face when others need your strength. She taught me that being a woman doesn’t make me less than any man. She taught me the meaning of family and love and to this day she teaches me to laugh in the face of adversity because crying will get you no where.
When I see those commercials for Kellogs and Coke and all the other sponsors of the Olympics, I get a wee bit teary eyed. It makes me recall all of those things that my mom sacrificed for us kids; all of the things she continues to sacrifice today for her family. This woman, who will never be featured in a commercial or in an interview. This woman, who for all the trials of her life has come out on the other side a stronger person. This woman, who when handed hardship turned it in to opportunity. This woman, who is and always will be my mom will always be remembered by everyone whose lives she has touched. Happy Birthday Mom! Thank you for being your best and the best any girl could have ever asked for. I love you!