Back in 2011, I wrote a post about my dad, and how much I admire him. I promised someday to post about my mom, and today seemed like a good time to do that.
Sometimes we joke that my mom is perfect, or nearly so. She has great habits and rarely, if ever, fails to do what she sets out to do. An impeccable housekeeper, she managed a household budget through recession and unemployment and managed to take care of everyone and everything. She made our bread and butter, canned our fruits and vegetables, and could butcher and dress a chicken (although I don’t think she liked it much.) We lived a pretty “green” lifestyle way before that was cool. We recycled, thrifted, reused, grew our own food, etc. Talk about eating “local;” our fresh foods were in the back yard.
My mom loves animals, even farm animals. She was the one to assist at the births of our cows and pigs, and on more than one occasion, she revived a piglet who could not breathe. Yes, you can give CPR, even mouth-to-mouth, to animals. The little guys usually made it, and grew up along with the others.
One cold January, our mama sow died, and a farmer told her to just knock the piglets in the head, as they could never live. Mom bottle-fed those eleven piglets and housed them in our basement until they were old enough to stand the cold of the barn. It created for an interesting situation when I brought a date home one night. He was a little horrified with all the snuffling and snorting from the basement, until I calmly explained that it was just the pigs..needless to say, it was the last date I ever had with him! (Any man who couldn’t handle pigs in the basement isn’t for me!) And it wasn’t the first time mom raised orphans; three baby racoons also benefited from her kind heart, and dozens of cats, often strays or dumped kittens, found refuge in our garage or barn.
She was a “health nut” before it was cool, too. She walked four miles a day to keep fit and slim, and took a lot of teasing for it. Everyone wanted to know where she was going, did she want a ride? What was she doing out there, anyway, slogging through a foot of snow? She was the one smiling when the jogging craze caught everyone out of wind in the early 70s!
She was tough physically, too. In her early twenties she battled Hodgkin’s disease. In those days, it was 97% fatal, but she beat those odds. If what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, she is proof of that.
When my brother was in high school, she went back to school and finished her degree, then went to work. She eventually worked as the Assistant County Commissioner for many years, and was instrumental in the planning and grant writing to restore the Lapeer County Courthouse, the oldest continually in use in the United States.
When I graduated from college in 2000, she and I took a trip to China. Alone. Clear across the world, neither of us speaking the language. Okay, I knew about 4 words. It was an experience we will never forget! Some day maybe I will write a post about that, we had so much fun.
Then in her early 50s, my mom quit her job and decided to become a flight attendant. And she did it, too. She flew across country, and overseas several times. She even spent a summer in Paris, sweltering in a garret, so she could improve her French and be assigned an overseas line. She was flying for United Airlines on that fateful day in September, 2001. Although we had several tense, worried hours, along with the rest of the world, we were fortunate that she had been called for an earlier flight, and was able to land on the West Coast just as the second plane was flying into the towers. She lost friends and acquaintances that sad, terrible day.
She loves to travel. As a flight attendant, she took full advantage of discounts on travel, but itchy feet struck her even before then. At least every 18 months, some kind of trip was in the works. She and my dad have taken uncountable numbers of cruises, traveled Europe three times, visited Egypt, sailed around Cape Horn, hiked the Inca Trail in Peru, and hiked the Grand Canyon. She is so much braver than I am when it comes to travel!
When United had its financial problems, she quit flying and she and dad moved to the mountains in Tennessee. It was a crazy, secluded place on top of a mountain, where you could see three states if you knew where to look! It must have been a little lonely there, because eventually they moved to a larger city in Tennessee, and have a large house where they have plenty of room for the many friends who love to stop by and stay a few days during the year. I have often joked that she should open a Bed and Breakfast.
It may be a rather superficial look at my mom and what she has accomplished, but no one wants to read a whole biography. I admire my mom, even if we don’t always agree on everything. (What mother and daughter do?) I am proud of her, too, for her strength and resolve.
That strength and resolve are being severely test right now. You see, three weeks ago, my mom suffered a massive stroke. For several days, we weren’t sure she would make it, but she held on. Mom did everything right; she doesn’t smoke, drinks wine occasionally, walks daily, does Pilates, eats healthy, isn’t overweight and watches her blood pressure. If this can happen to her, it can happen to anyone. As it turns out, there is a congenital heart condition that caused the stroke; the fact that she was in such great shape before is probably why she made it, and why she is recovering. Cautionary tale? You betcha.
Two days ago she was moved to rehab, and is starting to be herself again – she wanted her hair washed and a manicure, so she is definitely getting better! Five therapists are helping her learn to walk and speak and write again, and the family is hopeful she will recover most, if not all, her abilities. We hope to have her home by spring, enjoying the hyacinths from her sunroom. It will be a long recovery, but if anyone can do it, my mom can.