Today is my mother's 61st birthday. Over the years, I've come to realize what a great mom I have. Comparing my experiences to those of my friends highlights how lucky I've been. While other moms have been absentee, abusive, or simply neglectful, my mom has been a champion parent - toiling since her mid-20's to raise 4 kids, the first of which (me) was always sick as a child and was finally diagnosed and treated - but diagnosed with an incurable and ultimately terminal condition. Not good news for any parent. And while I'm sure she had her private moments of weakness, I never saw those. My mom has not only been a good parent, but has been a model of how to raise a child with CF. She never let me use it as an excuse to not have to do something, or to be treated special. She's always looked out for me without being overbearing (like some CF moms become) and has encouraged me to reach for opportunities.
Even more impressive, she dealt with a husband who was gone a lot in the early years - off working in some shithole jungle for Uncle Sam, or himself in the hospital fighting cancer. It's to her credit that she even decided to have more kids than just my first sister and I - thus the twins came into the world. Then, she successfully owned and operated two children's clothing stores for several years before the whole family moved to Missouri.
And neither was that move a picnic either. Dad went ahead and we were separated for almost a year before he was ready for the family to move. In that time, Mom took care of business, closing her stores, wrapping up loose ends, selling the house, etc. Plus taking care of four kids.
Lately, she continues to be a strong example of what a mother and wife should be. To be sure, we kids haven't presented her with too many problems (none of us are in jail or are junkies or anything), but she's been attentive to her grandchild and not too nagging about the rest of us getting married. She's had to return to her role as caregiver as Dad has gotten himself a chronic condition and has not only coped, but gone the extra mile in setting up a yearly conference for caregivers like herself. And through all of that, she's faced down a bout of cancer of her own.
One thing's for sure: they don't make them like her anymore. Hell, I'm not sure they made them like her when they made HER! Like the pioneer women of the 1800's, Mom has managed to call up an indomitable spirit year after year under a series of frankly terrible circumstances. Through it all, she mothers and she wives and she conquers and she succeeds.
In the last year, two of my good friends have lost their fathers and two have lost their mothers; and I've seen the devastation that causes them. Seeing that has helped prepare me for when I'll eventually see my parents pass on, but in the meantime, I am everyday grateful for their presence in my life. Today, I am especially thankful for my mother and wish her long life and continued happiness. Happy Birthday, Mom.