Friday, October 12, 2012

My mom

Today would have been my mom's 84th birthday.  Although she's been gone nearly 10 months now, I still miss her fiercely.  Just the other day, I was (again) wishing that she were here; more than anything, I miss talking and spending time with her!  I enjoyed the time we spent together.  She was funny and smart--sharp as a tack.  We laughed a lot when we talked!  She always used to ask, "Who's going to make you laugh when I'm gone?"  I don't think that I'll ever find anyone who will make me laugh the way she did.  She was one-of-a-kind!  I was proud to call her my best friend, and I was even more proud to say that she was my mom. 

She was born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma in 1928.  When she was born, she refused to start breathing!  At that time, the doctor's solution to this was to give her a shot of adrenalin straight to the heart.  Happily, it worked, and she started breathing.  Such a dramatic start to life!

Mom lived in various cities in Oklahoma until she went to Our Lady of the Lake College in San Antonio.  Her father was a staunch Catholic--and in those days parents chose both their children's colleges and what they studied.  So, off to San Antonio she went, enrolled to major in Biology so that she could become a medical technologist.  Later she would say that neither college nor major would have been her first choice, but she made the best of things, as she always did, and was quite successful in  the profession her parents chose for her.

When I gathered the courage to speak at her funeral, the theme of my eulogy was her determination.  When I think of her, determination is the first word that comes to mind.  After she and daddy married, she wasn't about to let him renege on his promise to her that he would go to college.  When he wanted to quit, she refused to let him, knowing him better than he did himself--knowing how much happier he would be in the job that his college education would afford him.  Thirty years later, she did the same thing for me--refusing to let me quit Baylor when I was homesick. 

Mom's determination showed in her parenting too.  She always stood firm in her rules, and I never--never--got away with anything.  I once called her "the meanest mother in the world" because of that.  She often repeated that story--proudly!  Mom wasn't mean by any stretch of the imagination (except to my 10 year old self), but she wasn't about to let a child get the upper hand.  Although we didn't fight often, my temper and her determination made for fireworks when we did.  Two memorable battles involved my piano practicing (or lack thereof) when I was in elementary school, and a certain slinky black dress in high school.  I ended up practicing my piano like I was told, and later the slinky black dress was consigned to the back of the closet.  I don't think I ever won an argument with her. 

She showed her determination when it came to teaching me math too.  I was a good student, except when it came to math.  Without really realizing it, I subscribed to the theory that if I wasn't good at something, then I just wouldn't put any effort into it.  When my teacher called her to report on my poor math progress, that was it.  As they say today, "it was on like donkey kong."  Mom took the bull--or the second grader, if you will--by the horns and I learned math whether I wanted to or not.  She tutored me every afternoon before dinner; we even had pop quizzes when we were in the car.  I might not have become a math scholar--or even have liked math--but I learned it!

When daddy died in 1989, I saw her use her determination in order to live a happy life, even though her husband was gone.  The first Christmas after he died, she drowned her sadness in a sea of baking!  She made twenty different kinds of cookies and candy, just to take her mind off the fact that daddy wasn't there.  In the years after that, she created a life for herself, different from the one that she and daddy shared, but a fulfilling, happy life nonetheless.

Her health--despite some "hiccups" was amazingly good until about two years ago.  She started to have one problem right after another.  One would clear up, and after a month or two of relatively stable health, something else would strike.  It was so hard seeing such a strong woman laid low by physical ailments. 

In the days following her stroke, I found myself emulating her determination.  I had to be strong for her, no matter how much I was hurting.  The day before she died, I told her that if she needed to go that she should go; I told her that I'd be fine.

And I am...