The best person I’ve ever known passed away on Friday, March 28, 2014. It’s her words I speak when parenting my own children, it’s her thinking that drags me to work even when I’m sick, and it’s her advice that still guides me now, at 50 years old.
My mom was raised in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of a stay at home mom and a father who worked his way up from mailman to postmaster with two younger brothers, Bob and Jeffrey. Her dad was one of 13 and her mother was one of 3 so family was absolutely everything in her life. Her aunts, including Linda Sue who was a year younger than my mom and never let her forget it, were a source of great love and joy to her throughout her life–her dinners with the aunts were treasured.
To this day I think my mother’s natural class and grace, something our beautiful daughter Bryna inherited, came from her Grandma Houston who immigrated from England. Unfortunately I think Bryna also inherited her germophobia from my mother, who was known to carry two combs in high school-one to loan and one to use.
At about the age of 17, my mom went to a dance. Undoubtedly she was with her friends Alice and Susie and it’s there that she met my dad. There’s no one on this earth that my mother loved more than her own father, except my father. He was trouble in every imaginable way including dragging her across the country when I was only one month old so that he could work in the mines in Montana. It wasn’t long and my mom came home to live with her parents. My dad followed shortly afterwards—setting up house with all of the other hooligans on Francis Road in Plum Borough, until we moved to Renton where there were, of course, more hooligans.
Now if you knew my mom and if you know my dad, then you know that two more opposite people have probably never married. In exasperation, (because my dad could do that to me) I asked my mom, “WHY did YOU marry HIM?” to which she always replied, “I just knew I had so much love in my life and I could give that to your dad.”
Well he definitely returned that love. It took him a while to grow up and to learn how to show it but no one could have loved my mom more or taken better care of her over these last ten years, and especially the last two. Thank you Dad. The last words I heard her speak, in the throes of her last hours, were to my dad, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”
So what lessons did I learn from my mom? While listed in my mom’s vernacular, if you think about them–they’re not a bad guide to a happy and healthy life.
- Avoid public restrooms at all costs.
- If someone is picking you up, you’d better be standing at the door when they arrive because they’re doing you a favor.
- If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.
- Get a grip!
- Good friends make life much better.
- Don’t EVER lie (and that was delivered with a smack on the bum at the age of 5, I remember it to this day.)
- When mad at my husband, she’d listen to me complain and when I got all done she’d say, “it’s not really worth it Kim, just go give him a kiss and tell him you’re sorry.”(I would think, “did she listen to a word I just said?!”)
- Don’t put your kid on a pedestal cause it’s a long way to fall.
- No one is perfect, don’t expect your kids to be.
- And most important of all, that I could do absolutely anything I put my mind to–my mom is the one person who throughout my entire life believed in me, thought the best of me and loved all of me, even the ugly parts. And no matter what happened, or how hard I fell, her constant response to anything was, “you’re fine!“
My mom was loving and caring and thoughtful. She was NOT, however, a patient woman. At Jendoco, where she worked most of her life, I pity anyone she ever trained on anything because GIRL, you better get it the first time! And she told me of a time when her colleague Scott was walking by her office on a Monday and my mother, always polite to a fault, said, “good morning Scott, how was your weekend?” When Scott walked in and sat down to tell her, my mom SAID, “wait a minute! I don’t have time to actually hear about it!”
My children got to witness this infamous LACK of patience when they were little. We got into her car in a parking lot and when she looked to back up she saw someone and said, “oh it’s okay, she’s got a walker.” It wasn’t a five count later when she turned around and said, as only my mom could, “what the hell is she doing back there?!” And yes, they learned the Pittsburgh word “jag off” while riding in the car with their Mimi. See, no one is perfect.
I can honestly say that the one person my mom had enormous patience with was my brother Ziggy, “the Prince”. And that’s just because he wore her down, day after day. It was an amazing thing to me as he did one thing after the other that I wouldn’t have dared to do and yet she just loved that kid without fail. Her only regret was being too ill to play on the floor with his 6 year old daughter Kaylee as she did with my two kids. She loved her three grandkids for everything that they are, just as they are.
Even in the midst of my mom’s debilitating and heartless illness, she was looking for a lesson to be learned or someone she could help. She always wanted to be of some use. I found 9 or 10 notebooks in which she’d journaled over the course of her sixties, a decade dominated by her litany of auto-immune disorders. In August, 2011 she posed a question to herself, “In ten years, what do you want to be known for?” Her answer, “being a child of God and raising two great kids.” Next she asked, “What kind of personality do you want to be known for? giving and loving”. And finally, “What three things would you change about your life right now if you could? To stop worrying, not to have this disease, and to just relax and enjoy life”. Always working on herself while accepting us exactly as we are—except for our son Tallon. Her last lecture to me two weeks before her death was in regard to him. She said that people needed to stop telling him he’s handsome because that’s not going to sustain him—it’s what’s on the inside that’s important. She said “don’t get me wrong, I love him and I see how handsome he is, but that’s just not important in life.” Duly noted Mom.
My mom was a beautiful example of class and grace and kindness and love. She inspires me still to try to be a better person. And at the same time, I know she loves me just as I am, ugly parts and all. We were all lucky to have known her