Last week I wrote a blog about my Dad so it’s only fair that I also mention something about my Mom. To say she endured hardships in her life would be an understatement. It wasn’t until I was around 12 years old that my parents finally told me about what she had to endure as a child. The details of which, I will spare you.
In the late 1960’s when she was 13 years old, she met my Dad and they quickly became high school sweethearts. When my Dad was 18 years old, he was drafted into the U.S. Navy for the Vietnam War. He and my Mom got married before he left, which meant that she was now a military wife.
She had signed up to follow him to wherever he was stationed and tried to make that place a home, no matter how long or short they were stationed there. They soon found themselves in Norfolk, Virginia where she gave birth to my brother, in the Navy base hospital when she was only 17 years old.
From then on, she always did her best. We were always a blue collar family who never quite held our heads high enough to make it past the poverty line. But damn if she didn’t do the best she could with what she was given. She had dinner cooked every night when my Dad came him from work and on a monthly basis she would even call the utilities companies to ask for extensions on the bills since we usually couldn’t pay. She also did whatever she could to help us kids in our schoolwork and volunteered to help in our classrooms.
When my brother went to prison, she had to bear the brunt of the pain. A mother watching her first born son going to prison can’t be easy and I’d hear her praying and crying in her bedroom at night.
She would have done anything for her 3 kids, and in most cases did. She always tried to make sure I had at least one new T-shirt or pair of jeans for the new school year, even if we had to get them from the Goodwill store (which we usually did).
She showed her love through food. Always in the kitchen cooking something and making the most of what we had in the cupboards. A phrase I heard a lot of when I was growing up was “slim pickens” as in we have slim pickens until payday. Usually on the days just before payday we would eat chipped beef on toast, or “ shit on a shingle”, as my Dad would call it from his Navy days.
When I was growing up, I can’t think of a period when times were not tough. When things got really bad, my mom got a job to help out. She worked part time through the church as a counselor for abused women, took care of us kids, kept the house clean, and had dinner ready for my Dad when he got home from work.
She had to deal with a lot when I was growing up. Both from the deep pain that stuck with her from her childhood, as well as the added pain and stress that came from trying to raise a family while not having any money, and having her oldest son stuck in the never ending prison system cycle. She never complained.
When I am old and gray I know there will be two things I remember most about my Mom. The first is how she always had a soft spot in her heart for children and how much children always loved her. I think it’s because kids can naturally sense someone with a loving heart.
The second is when I was a child, she would always read me the children’s book called Love You Forever, and how deeply her and I are connected with each other through that book.
She taught me to always be kind and love everyone, no matter their race, creed, or color and to always try to put myself in other people’s shoes before judging them. One of the greatest gifts I have is my unusually high level of empathy and compassion and I know I got that from her.
So for everything, thank you Mom. Love you forever.