My mother is awesome and recently I have been regaling my friends with her accomplishments. I have an eclectic group of friends to include some young mothers — married and unmarried. I try to avoid discussing the possible parallels with their lives and my mother’s life because after all, I am a man and they certainly don’t want to hear a word I have to say!
I have a girl friend which recently completed nursing school despite her complex, busy life. I shared my mother’s inspirational journey to become a nurse with her. She is so polite, she didn’t even tell me to shut my trap — because I have no clue as to what she endured. When I considered a more passive approach to inspiring young women, writing about her seem to be the most viable option. After considering which details of her life I should write about, I had several questions which I could not answer.
I must admit that I don’t call my mother as often as I should which, in no way means that I don’t think of her or talk about her often. I’d like to think my mother has just accepted me for the type of person I am. My mother is generous, hardworking, intelligent, loves animals, and loves her children and grandchildren. She doesn’t use foul language or consume alcohol and is a devout catholic — which may shock my friends and tempt them to email her to tell her about my shenanigans. Don’t bother, she knows… mothers always know.
I remember a few years ago I was driving and the song “Mary Jane” by Rick James began to play and my mother said, “Oh! I love this song… it is such a pretty love song.” She seemed a bit shocked when I said, “Yeah, a song about how much that freak loves weed!” Don’t let her seemingly naïveté, gentle demeanor, and small physical stature fool you — she has immense strength when it comes to commitment, self-control, and courage.
Like most teenagers in the 1960’s, she loved music and going to the beach while her brother and cousins were into cars and surfing. After graduating high school, she attended beautician and cosmetology school until she met my father.
My father was smooth-talking Scotch-Irish sailor from Pennsylvania coal country. Regardless of what my mother may say, I’ve heard her refer to my father as “charming” before so, it’s no wonder she fell in love with him. By the way, that inherited charm has been both a gift and a curse for generations of men in my family.
Shortly after my parents married, my older sister was born and my father transferred to the Naval Reserves. He then moved the family to western Pennsylvania where he worked as a steelworker fabricating railroad cars. Later, my parents moved again so my father could work in the shipyards on the Lake Erie shore. This is around the time I was born. Also, I believe this is around the time stress started to compound on my parents.
Now in her twenties, she was stranded in a tiny town in a small trailer with two children. Besides having no transportation and a limited to non-existent budget, she was thousands of miles from her family and friends. In those days, there was no Internet and long distance phone calls were very expensive.
I wonder if some of these Pennsylvanians ostracized my mother because they considered her a young, pretty California girl who could not handle country living. Fortunately, my mother befriended my dad’s sister. They became very close and still write to each other today.
Eventually, my father purchased a Chevrolet so she could run errands during the day. When I first saw the picture of my mother’s car, I couldn’t help but laugh. She now had to trade in her beach sandals and learn how to drive a V8-powered sedan in the dead of winter. I can hear my father now, “What’s wrong with you?!? You can’t drive in the snow?” and my mother thinking “Uuumm, duh… this is the first time I’ve ever seen snow you idiot.”
As I said, my mother became very close to my aunt and I believe their relationship kept my mother from going insane. After all, my aunt used to make my dad eat dirt when they children so she could certainly handle my father. I believe, to some degree, their relationship was mutually beneficial — my aunt advised my mother on how to handle my father while my mother enlightened my aunt about the world outside of western Pennsylvania.
They divorced before I was two years old and she returned to California to be near her family. My mother remarried an older man because (I can only assume) she believed he would be more mature and a good provider.
Growing up there was great because I was close to my cousins and my grandparents. I think my mother was much happier because her family infrastructure was restored. Soon, my mother gave birth to another girl.
Before I began the fourth grade, my stepfather moved us to southern Missouri because he had a friend who recently moved there.
My stepfather was hired as an auto body shop manager and my mother took a few part-time jobs to supplement the family income. Eventually, she began working full-time but was still taking care of the family.
I don’t recall going without presents at Christmas, birthdays, and school supplies, notwithstanding our meager family income. We certainly did eat a lot of tuna casserole, chicken livers, meat loaf, and the likes but I thought mom was just trying to torture us. Over the years, I learned we didn’t go without because mom did. I suppose mothers always put their children’s needs and wants over their own.
To the say the least, my stepfather was less than supportive. Actually, he was downright mean and condescending to my mother. If meals weren’t cooked to his satisfaction, they’d be thrown — among other things. I won’t air out any more family laundry, besides he isn’t worth the calories burned while typing this sentence.
When I was a teenager, I remember my mother began her training as an emergency medical technician (EMT) and eventually became part of an ambulance crew. I remember her being on call and having to leave in the middle of the night. Even though she worked all the time and was on call all the time, we still had clean clothes, meals were ready, and the house was clean despite the fact she was probably exhausted the majority of the time. Yet, she continued her education and became a paramedic.
I enlisted in the Navy at 18 and I remember when I was stationed in Japan, I received a letter from my mom to inform me that she was divorcing my stepfather. Mom continued her education to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and then a registered nurse (RN). She performed a wide variety of duties in her field to include emergency room charge nurse. Needless to say, she isn’t squeamish and I would imagine there were few people with as much experience as her — probably quite irritating to some of those male doctor egos.
After “retiring,” she began working for a manufacturing company as their on site OSHA Nurse. She lives in a house in which everything is hers and the way SHE wants it — especially her Walt Disney collection. She is like a real-life Dr. Doolittle with several species of house pets weaving in and out of your legs as you move about the house. She is extremely active and routinely enjoys exciting vacations to include Hawaii and more recently an Alaskan cruise with my older sister, her brother and wife, and her cousin.
I have a few lady friends which are single mothers and I wonder how they do it. Then again, I wonder if it is more frustrating to have a significant other who doesn’t help you. Having a significant other which doesn’t help would be a lot like having a fully operational car which you can’t use — you’re forced to walk everywhere.
When my baby sister, who was raised by my father, was in high school, she told me she was considering not going to college and that she could always get a menial job. This was unacceptable for many reasons but mainly because she was making this decision based on limited knowledge of what opportunities the world has to offer.
I drove up to Pennsylvania and brought her back to Virginia so she could meet my boss, a very successful business woman. After my sister spent the afternoon cruising around in a Lexus and having a heart-to-heart with this woman at lunch, I never heard any more silly talk.
I believe young women need mentors and role models. Unlike boys, not all girls and young women are made aware of the opportunities available to them. Before you feminists storm my castle walls, I am in no way implying women are the weaker sex.
Obviously the answer to my facetious title “Mothers have dreams, too… don’t they?” is “Yes, of course they do.” I just wonder if someone asked this little girl what her dreams were? Did she want to be a musician, an artist, a writer? I’d like to think my mother is happy today with her decisions and that she can pursue any dream she may have now. And if I haven’t always shown it, I appreciate everything you have done for me mom.