My mother’s life has been anything but ordinary. She was born prematurely in a foreign country. Despite my grandmother taking medication to prevent premature labor, my mother arrived early at a hospital in the Panama Canal Zone, after my grandma flew several hours to see her husband who was stationed there in the Navy. She weighed 4 lbs and stayed in an incubator for a month. This was in the 1940’s and she wasn’t expected to live.
My mom grew up in a rural community and met my dad in a one room schoolhouse. Her family was poor and she spent most of her summers picking cucumbers for a local factory to help support her family. She didn’t have a lot of time to play and had one doll. As a teenager, her mother died after delivering her eighth child. My mom was in college at the time and spent her weekends helping take care of her 6 younger siblings. My dad went off to Vietnam. He came back a different person. College finals were cancelled due to war protests and bomb threats.
My parents eloped. My dad went to work on their wedding night, my mom cooked for their sponsors. The night ended with freezing rain. My mom wondered if she made a mistake. My dad started drinking a lot. He was depressed and sat around with a gun in his lap staring off into space. He was going through PTSD after Vietnam. He drove a tank in the war and one day all of his buddies died in that tank. He was the only one that walked away unscathed. He became abusive and mean. My mom wondered if she made a mistake. My mom got pregnant with me. When I was a month old, a tornado was headed towards the trailer park we lived in. Sirens blared, it was time to take shelter. My dad just sat in his chair and stared. My mom decided it was time to pack up and head back home, they were hours away from family.
My parents lived with my dad’s parents for 2 years while they built a house and started a new life. My dad stopped drinking. My mom got pregnant again. They moved into their new house and planned on having 2 kids. Their plan for 2 kids ended up turning into 4 kids within 5 years. Their second child was violently autistic. My parents fought constantly. My mother wondered if she made a mistake. My mom was very beautiful with plenty of opportunities to leave my dad. A best friend’s husband wanted to plan a hook up with her up north. No one needed to know. Another friend’s husband kissed her. I just found out about this and he was a great guy. Guess who I ran into right after she told me? Other men pursued her, but she ran away from them instead of running away with them. That was one of my mom’s greatest strengths, staying committed to a marriage she was miserable in. This is such a rare quality nowadays. It is hard to live up to parents who have a wonderful marriage. It is even harder to live up to a parent sticking with it when given ample opportunity to leave.
My mother was the family breadwinner. She is still working full-time at 67. She was emotionally strong when faced with many difficult life situations. She was there for us when my dad couldn’t take it. She has patience when others have none. She is a hard worker. She handles difficulties with ease. She has been an anchor through all of life’s storms. I am proud and honored to have her as my mother. What a blessing her life has been to me and many others. She has been a lifelong advocate for the disabled and their parents. She has helped many with her empathy and compassion. She has been very generous with the gifts she has been given. She is one strong woman.
Happy birthday, mom! I love you.