Looking through some old files, I came across this letter I wrote to Regis and Kathie Lee years and years ago for their annual Mother’s Day “Great Moms” contest. Unfortunately, it didn’t win; I’ve always felt I let my mother down because I couldn’t adequately explain why she deserved to have her dream come true. This tribute doesn’t even come close to describing what a wonderful mother she has been (and still is) – it was hard to put it all in so few words - but I thought I’d share it anyway.
My mother's dream is to visit the Austrian Alps, to "see if they're as beautiful as they look in the "Sound of Music"”. Thank you for offering this contest because, otherwise, I might not have ever known that she longed to go there. Although we talk almost every day, sharing laughs, venting frustrations, offering advice, I was shocked to realize I had no idea what kind of dreams Mama held. I had never heard her wish for more than having the strength to make it through each day.
When I noticed this contest for "Great Moms", I knew my mother deserved to win. Mama is open-minded and non-judgmental, knowing when to offer advice or just listen. Growing up, I could talk to her about anything, including sex, birth control, and peer pressure. As a grownup with three children of my own, I still depend on her as a mother, but our roles have also shifted to that of friends. I'm amazed at the energy she still has, often romping on the floor with her grandkids. She can do anything she sets her mind to. Plus we have fun together.
Being a mother myself now, I marvel at her stamina and grit. Mama always worked outside the home. She took night courses and passed the CPS exam, becoming a Certified Professional Secretary.
She still put us first. She was a Girl Scout leader and softball coach. When I was sick, she was the one who took me to the doctor, although my grandmother lived with us. No matter what was wrong with us, she always stayed calm, in control, and helped us stay that way, too.
I have asthma, but despite all my trips to the doctor and the medicine I had to take, I never felt sickly; I was encouraged to do what I wanted and go where I wanted. I played softball, went to sleep-overs, and even out-of-state church choir trips (although I did have to fly home from St. Louis one year because of a severe asthma attack.)
When I was fifteen, my twenty-seven year old brother was shot through the spinal cord. For over a week, Mama lived at Houston's Ben Taub hospital, while my brother clung to life in the ICU. I have a mental image of her dozing on the hard wooden benches in the dingy lobby. Daddy brought her changes of clothing, and she'd wash up in the ladies' room.
The shooting left my brother a quadriplegic. Until his death eight years later, he was in and out of the V.A.Hospital, and had a specially equipped room in our house. Mama continued to work, and then personally took on all the backbreaking details of his physical care when she got home. Despite her petite build, she could lift his six foot frame in and out of his wheelchair and into the car or bed. When he was in the hospital, she spent most of her free time there, monitoring his care. Probably hardest for her was helping him retain a sense of independence. He went away to a college geared for the handicapped, and then became partners in a guard dog business, driving a specially equipped van to and from work alone.
Amazingly, she still had time and energy for her other children. I never felt overlooked or neglected. She was always there for me, never too tired to listen or talk. When I made mistakes, I knew I could admit them and learn from them; I knew I'd be forgiven. Mama always had faith in us, perhaps too much at times. By example, she showed me how to stand up for myself, to respect others for their differences, and not be afraid to be different myself. She supported the decisions we made about our friends, who we dated, what we wore, and what we did with our lives. She taught me about God, not trying to tell me how to worship Him, but showing me how to listen to Him in my heart.
My brother-in-law nicknamed Mama "Peter Pan" because she never seemed to tire or grow older. But the last few years have left their marks. At 60, she's still petite, but laugh and worry lines crinkle around her sea green eyes and her hair has gone all gray. She's spent several more nights in hospitals, standing by as Daddy has had aneurysms removed from his legs and abdomen, a double bypass, a seizure, and a stroke. Although he's recovered surprisingly well, back to playing golf and square dancing, he'll never be his old self again. Their days are filled with medicine schedules, and blood tests. I believe the realization hovers over their heads that their time together in this world is running out.
In high school, I had a chance to go on a one month tour of Europe with the Foreign Study League. My parents scraped enough money together to send me, although they'd never been on a trip like that themselves. One of our stops was Innsbruck, Austria, in the Alps.
When I asked Mama about her dream, she said it was "just one of those dreams that don't ever come true." Please recognize my mother as the Truly Great Mom she is by sending her and my Daddy on a long overdue honeymoon to a place she never thought she'd see except through the eyes of her daughter.