My mother chooses to think the best of people. In other words, she believes companies that make bad products will fix their mistakes, politicians will set aside personal agendas to work for the greater good, and doctors won't be influenced by drug companies’ pitches.
Despite her optimism, she's no fool, so she worries, reads more than one newspaper, and does an impressive amount of research for a person who doesn't know how to use a computer. She's not above referring to politicians who disappoint as "nitwits."
Unless you happen to be a politician who's disappointed her, my mom's fun to be around. Until a couple of years ago, she line-danced and is still, hands down, the best listener on the planet.
Wouldn't you like to chat with someone who gives you undivided attention and asks the right amount of questions? She's well aware there are at least two sides to every story but can be counted on to throw her support to Team Kid/Grandkid.
I'm not saying my mom is perfect. She'd be the first to say she hates to cook and dislikes crafts. Her favorite household chore? Laundry. She claims it's because she can throw clothes in the washer and read while the machine does all the work.
Her long-ago quest for a college degree was interrupted by marriage and four children, but when my youngest sister started high school, my mother returned to college at night. My father took her to class because driving makes her jittery—the result of a decades-ago accident. My mom graduated magna cum laude. She went to work for the N.J. Commission for the Blind, an agency located close to my father's place of work so he could drop her off and pick her up every day.
Although my mother learned Braille for her job, she retired shortly before computers replaced typewriters in her workplace. Nowadays, she reads more novels in a month than I do in six but doesn't read blogs. In fact, she says "blog" as if it's a foreign word, and she's unsure of the pronunciation.
Every Friday morning, she gets her hair done. She goes to an old-school hairdresser, sits under the dryer, and emerges with a style that lasts a full week—and suits her. As my older daughter once told her, "Gram, you look better than Nancy Pelosi."
Like many mid-Atlantic state Roman Catholics of a certain age, my mother usually votes Democratic but prides herself on recognizing and rewarding merit (and punishing nitwittery) across the aisle.
Her Catholicism is tolerant and ecumenical, and she cares more about social justice than dogma.
She loves her children and grandchildren, and we/they know it. Once, an acquaintance told me she doubted I'd ever be much of a writer because I come from a happy family. I didn't have a snappy comeback then but now know a solid foundation gives children confidence rather than ego and encourages them to face down unhappiness.
My parents would chew off their fingernails before they bragged about their accomplishments. "If you're lucky, someone else will do it for you," my mother told me.
Back when she and my dad were spry enough to take Elderhostel (now Road Scholar) trips, my mom made a point of not bringing family snapshots with her. She avoided people who talked endlessly about their kids. "I love my children, but your father and I, we have a life of our own."
Soon, they'll celebrate sixty-three years of marriage. My dad gives my mom eye drops. She reminds him to take his pills. They take exquisite care of one another.
My computer-shy mother won't read this and know I've bragged about her, and that's for the best. If she'd known I was going to write a tribute, she'd have asked me to make it about my dad. But it's not his birthday, is it?
I love you, Mom.