Monday, October 15, 2012

A Tribute to My Mom on her 82nd Birthday

A Tribute to My Mom on her 82nd Birthday

My mother is a dynamic woman who still will argue that old is 10 years older than she is. She’s pushed old up to 92. I guess that means at 53 I have barely reached middle age.  She has convinced me that 80 is the new 60.  My grandparents were ancient at 60. Neither of my parents acts old or elderly at 80+. It is a combination of genetics, modern medicine and attitude. Actually, I firmly believe attitude is more important than genetics or medicine.

Mom has an amazing sense of humor and joy for life that I hope to enjoy when I reach her age. (and I’ve no doubt I will, I’ve picked 95 for my old age).

When I think of what has happened for women in the last 82 years and how my mother has gone with the flow I am awestruck. She was born and grew up during the Depression, remembers having an ice box as opposed to a refrigerator, lived through WWII and recalls that her family had gas rations because Grandpa was a plumber. She was the first in her family to obtain a college degree, was a charter member of the Kappa Kappa Chapter of the Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority at Ball State University, and secured a job teaching elementary school in Logansport, Indiana.

After a whirlwind courtship and his misstep of presenting her with a turnip as a first gift (she doesn’t like turnips – but Grandma did) my parents were married in 1955.  They were the 2nd nontraditional (meaning Dad was not Catholic) marriage in St. Bridget’s Catholic Church. Before that time, marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics could not take place within the actual church.

 My dad was a country boy from southern Indiana, and when his family met mom, they were suspicious of her modern, citified, northern Indiana ways – she wore makeup, had a job, smoked, and was Catholic. In today’s world we forget that these were crucial issues in the mid 20th Century.

After we children were all in elementary school, mom was ready to return to the workforce. She needed the stimulus of adult conversation. Ironing while the NBC soaps were on never really appealed to her.  She was afraid she could not use words with more than one syllable. (I, on the other hand, went through my General Hospital addiction in the 80’s). So, after my sister started Kindergarten, my mother and her friend Sally pitched the idea of a job share to the school administration to cover for a teacher who was going on maternity leave. Before advocates of women’s rights were marching for such opportunities, mom and her friend shared a 2nd / 3rd grade split class in 1968. One taught in the morning and the other the afternoon. Little did she know she was on the forefront of the women’s movement.

Mom bought our first microwave and automatic dishwasher when my dad was sick. She made the decision to allow me to go to Paris the summer of my junior year in high school with my French teacher without batting an eye. When I mentioned the opportunity, there was no question.

In adulthood I’ve suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, as do all of us. Through the ups and downs, the good and bad, through my triumphs and failures, she has been there with sometimes quiet and occasionally tiger mother support. When I went through a particularly difficult time and made some decisions that were perhaps not entirely appropriate, she expressed an understanding that I never would have imagined.

She’s stood by me through heartbreak, job frustrations, teen angst, tax anxiety, moving to Asia, divorce, financial crisis, a horrible terrible very bad relationship with an insulting loser boy who threatened to cut off my head, healing, the discovery of joy and love in “early” middle age, the vagaries of family dysfunction, an allergy to my 9 cats, and taught me how to live life with grace.

My mother never lets anything get her down. She goes to Curves, senior aerobics, volunteers at the County museum, meets friends for breakfast or dinner several times per week, volunteers at the hospital gift shop and church, travels frequently, and lives a life fuller than many half her age. She appreciates fashion and loves Jeopardy just as I do. She has a common sense approach to life that I fully appreciate.

When I grow up I want to be just like her.

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