Thursday, August 30, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom!

My Mom

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.


Jennette Marie Powell said...

Your mom sounds like a wonderful lady! And I'm with her 100% on the chores. :) Happy BD, Pat's mom!

Coleen Patrick said...

Is your mom available for coffee (or tea)? :)
Pat, you made me want to sit down and chat with her. What a lovely tribute.

Sheila Seabrook said...

Happy birthday to your mom, Pat! Wow, I would love to meet her. She sounds like so much fun and so interesting.

Back in high school, I had an evening job at the local senior's home. Hands down, it was my favorite job ever. I fell in love with those seniors and wanted to spend the rest of my life there, talking to them and caring for them. :)

I think it's so sweet that your parents take care of each other. That's the thing I miss most about my dad. He took care of my mom. My mom took care of him. Sometimes they were crazy (usually covering for their grandkids), but they were a solid unit and like your parents, had a life separate from us kids.

BTW, you have your mom's smile. :)

Ginger Calem said...

Pat, what a fantastic tribute to clearly a fantastic woman. Now I can see why you're so awesome! :)

Anonymous said...

Sweet, sweet, sweet, Pat!

Your Mom sounds like a jewel and I'm so happy you came from a happy home--the world needs happy writers too! xxjink

Christine said...

What an amazing tribute to a wonderful woman!

My grandmother was incredible and cut from the same cloth as your amazing mother.

Happy Birthday, Pat's Mom!

Lark Howard said...

What a wonderful tribute, Pat! And believe it or not, your mother looks a lot like mine including the same hair-do. It must be the norm for women of that age in the northeast. :-)

I love that she doesn't take family pictures along on trips. Too many people stop being themselves and become only parents and grandparents at a certain point. Your mom sounds like a charming, interesting woman! How lucky you are to have her!

August McLaughlin said...

Ooh, a non-cleaning-fan woman after my own heart. I say happy, fun kitchens aren't overly neat. ;)

Happy birthday to your beautiful mother! She sounds like a fantastic lady, which doesn't surprise me—consider how well you've turned out. Have a blast celebrating.

Liz Flaherty said...

Happy birthday to Pat's mom, and thank you for introducing her to us!

Reetta Raitanen said...

Your mother sounds like a great person. I really admire her getting a college degree when you kids were on your own. Happy Birthday to her!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Every time I start to answer a comment, I tear up. Thank you, everybody. I'll return when I've got a grip.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Thanks, Jennette. I like to cook but inherited the all-thumbs-at-crafts gene. Housework? Ugh.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

My mom would love to have coffee with you!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Sheila! When we were kids, my sisters, brother, and I would to try to play one parent against the other. We failed every time. "Solid unit" is right. And, yes, the fact they have a separate life allows us to have the same.

You choked me up with the smile compliment. Thank you.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Oh, Ginger, I wish I'd turned out as well as my mom. Thank you!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Jink! Somebody's got to write those happy endings. Thanks!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

They don't make them like that anymore, do they, Christine? We're lucky to have strong, smart women in our families.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Thanks, August! Don't worry, no one will ever accuse my kitchen or my mom's of being overly neat.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Liz! Thanks for reading!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Reetta! I'm the eldest, so I was out of the house but had three siblings still at home when my mother went back to school. She'd finished a couple of years of night classes before I was born, and I think it took her another six years to earn her degree. She missed summa cum laude by a fraction of a point.

Reetta, your kids are little. The day-to-day stuff gets easier, I promise.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Lark! I know I'm lucky.

My mother's hairdresser, Lydia, is in her seventies. What's going to happen to women of a certain age when the Lydias retire?

Thank you!

Louise Behiel said...

how lucky you are to have her in your life. She sounds like a wonderful woman and great mom. thanks for sharing her with us.

LynNerdKelley said...

Oh, what a beautiful tribute to your mom, Pat! Well done! I hope she gets to read it. And your folks will be celebrating 63 years of marriage! Awesome. I hope you do a post about it.