As I think about today, I am reminded of a time in my life when my immediate family went from four to three in the blink of an eye.
A thirty-five year old mother of two became a widow and had to take the reins of the family’s future. With no father to steer the course, in a world where women still looked to their men for direction, my mother took action without a rule book at her disposal.
As children (my sister and me) we just followed her because that is what children do with their mothers. They lead and we follow. I don’t remember having a significant amount of time to grieve when my Dad died, we simply had to go on and survive. It wasn’t a time of insensitivity, it simply was a time where life had put us on the fast track for growing up.
Initially, we survived; later, we did better; eventually, we thrived. My Mother saw to that – she was going to give us all the tools we needed to succeed even if she didn’t know where all those tools were stored.
I fast forward to our lives today, forty years post this life changing event, and I can’t help but look at my mother with the awe I once did, still with the nine year old eyes of the boy whose father has just died and is looking to his single living parent for direction. I realize now how difficult a time this was for her and she never let me see her sweat.
My Mom did the best she could for us and that best included providing shelter, food, love, support, education, entertainment and commitment. My Mom put us first even when we felt that she was not making us a priority. The adult me can look back on so many instances where I misjudged her actions and now it doesn’t matter because the means justified all the ends. And, all the ends for my Mom were for her kids.
Almost seventy-five is not the same as thirty-five, the mind is not as sharp as it was, repetition of the same stories becoming the norm, but my Mom continues to be a remarkable human being who forged ahead because she simply didn’t know that standing still and giving up was an option. Today, she is still nothing but a pillar of strength, if albeit a little older.
In moving forward, she taught us to face life’s challenges head on and we’ve both had our share of lessons to learn, forcing us to draw from the well of experience she built for our survival. In a world where she didn’t have access to many material things, she sewed a quilt of character for us to envelop ourselves and find solace in our darkest moments.
I’m a remarkably lucky man to be able to stand alongside my Mother and count her as a dear friend, one who still listens to my hopes and dreams, one who still celebrates my words even though she doesn’t understand them most of the time and one who so vividly portrays everything we should celebrate on Mother’s Day.
My Mother never set out to be exceptional, but because she didn’t know otherwise, she gave us what was within her means which resulted in the most exceptional of upbringings and the best foundation to build a productive life.
That alone make her leaps and bounds beyond exceptional and the best leader of the pack I have ever had to follow.