Today’s Courier Herald Column
Regular readers can probably note that when I write a non-political column, it’s usually reserved for Fridays. I’ll be taking liberties by doing that a day early this week, as today is my mother’s birthday. “Several” years ago, she was born just outside the town of Richlands North Carolina. She moved around a bit as a child and eventually made it to Georgia when she married my father, her husband of 37 years.
I’ve written about my late dad a few times, but never directly about Mom. She’s a rather private person, and frankly no one in my family asked or has shown any desire to become public people. Thus, when I write about them it’s usually somewhat indirectly and I try to keep personal identifiers to a minimum. In keeping with that tradition, this won’t be as much “about” Mom as what she’s meant to me, my family, and many others.
I am the third of her four children and only son. Growing up, Mom was a stay at home mother. She raised the four of us and her youngest brother while also taking in and caring for her uncle who, with “months” to live, managed through her care to extend his life in our home for about 15 years. Other relatives routinely stopped by to visit for a few days or years. The house was always full.
During my toddler years, Mom managed to put herself through nursing school, becoming a RN. We kept her busy enough at home that she didn’t really go to work in her field until most of us were out of college.
We were not a wealthy family, but we were and are loved. Mom’s decision to stay home with us was coupled with Dad’s passing up a few promotions in other cities so that we could have a stability that she did not have growing up. It was but one of many in a long string of sacrifices she has made and continues to make for her children – and now her grandchildren.
Mom, a high school basketball player and cheerleader and dad the football player ended up with four children who were more student than athlete. My two older sisters were among the first in Fayette County’s “gifted” program, and I was eventually included as well, I’m sure because I was a legacy. My younger sister also carried on the family tradition.
We were lucky to have good public schools, as private schools were not an option. My parents, having admitted much later to us they had no idea what to do, were a near constant presence at our schools, making sure that they were doing what we could to get a decent education. They expected more from us than we did of ourselves, but did so with encouragement and understanding as opposed to threats or negativity. We all managed our way to and through the University of Georgia, and scattered out into the lives of our choosing.
While my parents claim they really had no idea what to do with us as children or students, they clearly did all they could. Above all, they understood the need for them to prepare us for the path we would take, not to prepare the path for us. For that, we all say well done. Our successes were made possible by our parents, our failures each of our own making and choosing.
Mom, for her part, got to choose her own career once we all left the nest. She spent the better part of a decade looking out after others managing an assisted living center near home. There she was able to assert a bit more of an independent identity, and find strengths and resolve that she never really knew she had. She’s since transitioned to full time grandmother, which seems to suit her as the only job she would even consider these days.
In days where we watch protests and divisiveness aimed at the 1%, we all have difficulty defining exactly who is rich. I’ve made a bit of money in my professional life and, unfortunately, lost a bit more. At the end of the day, the foundation I have, the love that was shown, and the lifetime commitment made have to put me in the best 1% to be in. For that I am truly fortunate. The rest of the world should be so lucky to be this rich.