A few weeks ago I began what will be a series of postings about my family members. For my father-in-law, I wrote a couple of stories to illustrate the man. Stories wouldn't work quite as well for my mom, so I'm going to use bulletpoints. This allows me to give you lots of little snapshots in bite-size morsels:
--She has been married to my dad for more than 35 years. That gave me stability.
--She worked as a secretary until I was born, and then she stayed home to raise me and my younger brother. That gave me her presence.
--She was (and is) her sons' biggest champion, always sticking up for us through troubles in school, sports or life in general. That gave me support.
--On the topic of sports, she never missed a practice or game. Most of the time she was the official scorekeeper, team mom, or filled some other volunteer role. She always thought I was the best player on the field. In baseball this was usually true. In basketball and soccer... not so much. That gave me healthy pride.
--She was very funny, but mostly only when she wasn't trying to be funny. When that happened, she was able to laugh with the rest of us at her unique way with words. That taught me humility.
--She has never met a stranger. You hear this cliche all the time, but I mean, she really hasn't met a stranger. Family members, professional athletes, mentally disabled people, foreigners, flaming homosexuals in a Busch stadium parking lot... she has no hesitation to speak to all of them as if they're closest friends. That taught me universal love (alas, I am still a slow learner on this one).
--She turned our home into a haven for my friends, and my brother's friends. Many of these guys had homes that were uncomfortable, unloving, or even downright violent. They came to our house and were always treated as family. Most of them would rather hang out at our house than go out on the town. That gave me an unbelievably powerful example of hospitality.
--She knew what I was capable of in life, and called me on it if I fell short. She didn't care what other kids were doing -- if I could do better, then that was the standard. Period. That gave me accountability and the strength to be myself.
--She knew that what we do for others can sometimes be a sacrifice, but the benefit always exceeds the cost. Here eyes were open and her hands reached out to needs around us on a daily basis. That taught me the responsibility of citizenship.
--She was able to transition with her eldest son as he left home, and her role shifted from caretaker to confidante. That showed me flexibility, and that I should never stop growing and adapting. But I'll always be her son.
She loves shopping, but would rather shop for gifts for someone else rather than for her own stuff. She is an excellent driver, even though she's blonde. She can type dozens of emails a day, but is wary of computer features outside the ones she uses regularly. She has an energy that is still unlike any other person I've ever met. Her spirit is pure, naively optimistic and unabashedly outgoing. Her heaven will be a beachside home (with air conditioning and lemon sweet tea on tap), a short drive from the relocated Arrowhead stadium, where they play (and win) every week. Her family will all have season tickets.
And since it's heaven, and there's no risk of injury, her sons may even be on the field. :)
It is said that mothers are by far the most powerful female influence in a son's life, and have an inestimable effect on how they interract with other women as adults. Mothers have a huge influence on what boys look for in a girl, and who they marry. My brother and I married very well, and we have a solid respect and love for what women bring to our world. We saw it first in her.
It's her 55th birthday today. I love you, mom!