Thinking back, what do you admire most about your mother?
My mother grew up in a family with three sisters, two older and one younger, and a brother four years her senior. She lost her Mom when she was just twenty-four years old, still three years away from marrying my Dad. They would have four boys and one girl over a ten-year period, which included two miscarriages. She was an accountant and an aspiring actress and gave up both to raise her family. Being way more familiar with being around girls, I imagine raising four boys was so very different and I’m glad she had at least my sister as a female companion. She passed away a few months after my two youngest brothers graduated college and Dad retired from General Motors. We had Christmas in 1985 together, never imagining it would be our last, and she slipped into a coma before New Year's Eve. We stayed with her in the hospital and she never woke up. Late on Sunday, January 5th we left, needing to get ready for work on Monday. It was so like Mom not to want to be a bother to anyone. She waited until she was alone to pass away. People told me that she had an express lane to heaven, that’s how nice and sweet she was. I couldn’t agree more. I lost my Dad on July 25, 1989, just three and a half years later. Not many people lose both of their parents by the time they’re thirty-three years old, and I envy those children that have their parents to talk to way later in life.
Later, as I became a father and like many others look to their parent's voices, living or deceased, for guidance, I reflected on what my parents taught me. It’s almost impossible to recall specific events over three decades, but after I pondered for a while, I boiled all their parenting into two themes. My father taught me to be responsible, to keep promises, respect others and understand the consequences of my actions. My mother, and to answer the question posed, taught me to be happy. Not specifically the how’s or what’s, but that I had to consider that my choices could not always be selfless, that some of the things I did had to be what I wanted and that I had to find the right balance in life that would make me both happy and responsible. My parents never specifically said it this way, but that’s what they did and why I admire them so much. Their own sense of values and morality was worth far more than any expert’s book.
Being responsible is the collection of actions that guide your choices when it comes to dealing with others. Being happy is the collection of actions that guide your choices when it comes to dealing with yourself. Taken together they form the twin goalposts for my life. So while their time on earth was relatively short, and I miss them dearly, I was so very fortunate that they were my parents.