This month is the three year anniversary of my moms passing. I miss her every day and still think about her all the time. Since she passed away I’ve reflected on a lot of things, I recognize now that she was the single person responsible for who I am today and anything I accomplish I can really link back to the lessons that she taught me. She didn’t teach me lessons like a teacher would, instead she taught me by how she lived her life. In modern terms, she modeled the way.
Some of the things that really stick out for me are:
- She never thought of anything as a challenge, just more tasks that need to be completed. In my entire life, I can never remember her seriously complaining about any wrong that was done to her, any task that she shouldn’t have to do, any project that she wasn’t up for or really anything that would stand in her way. Problems were things other people had.
- She treated everyone with respect. It really didn’t matter if you were a bottle washer or a CEO, she treated you with the same amount of respect and dignity. She never thought that any job was less important than any other and had praise for a job completed well, no matter what that job was. I wish there was more of that kind of appreciation today and much less of the self importance I see everywhere.
- She didn’t stop working until the job was done. When there was a task to complete, she would get the task done no matter how long it took. It would pain her if things were late or she didn’t deliver the quality that she expected of herself.
- Sometimes you couldn’t tell, but she always tried to put a little humor or fun into everything. Not a story teller or jokester, but a quick wit that could bring you to tears. Besides the wit, there really wasn’t an activity that she wouldn’t try. Dress up and sing along, sure. Wear a crazy Halloween costume, why not. There weren’t really any activities that she wouldn’t try, especially if there were laughs involved.
- She would do anything for her Darren. Any opportunity she could get to spend time with him, she would take it. She would light up whenever he came in the room and immediately drop everything and make him the center of attention. Pick him up from school, take him to practice, listen to him play those crazy loud drums. help with homework, and of course the numerous trips, sometimes two in a day, to McDonalds. (I think we are going to celebrate at McDonalds in her memory tonight)
- She valued her friendships, I can remember her saying, “I haven’t talked to <insert many names here>, I better call her.” She always made a point of connecting with the important people in her life, no matter how busy she was. This is something I really need to get better at.
- She loved to drive. Even in the last year of her life, she made the drive from La Verne to Tahoe and back. Sometimes by herself! Recently Darren recounted to me how “slow” I drove compared to grandma. For those of you that have driven with me, that’s saying something.
- Norway/Sons of Norway (sofn.org) – As an American of Norwegian heritage, she just loved the ritual, pomp and circumstance of the SOFN. For 30 years it was probably the biggest activity she had outside of work. When she retired some time back she really devoted herself full time to participating, leading and promoting the organization. I just went to one of their annual meetings a couple of weeks back and you could really see the love an appreciation from the members who knew, worked and played with my mom.
There are some other small pieces of context that you may not know.
- My mother raised me, completely by herself, from about the age of four. Being a single mother in the 60’s and 70’s couldn’t have been fun but your never would have known it. I felt like we were rich the entire time and there really wasn’t ever anything I needed that I didn’t get. I know now that it really was a heroic effort on her part and she devoted so much of herself, energy and time, to make sure my life was good. It definitely was.
- While I do have an older brother, 12 years older than me to be exact, he was already out of the house when I was growing up.
- My dad only provided spotty financial help while I was growing up, even so, my mother never had a bad thing to say about him and never hesitated to send me off to see him over the summer, even though….
- My dad basically kidnapped me when I was four, taking me on greyhound busses to the mid-west, Kansas and Iowa, where he hid me with family in those areas. I remember the bus trip, but not much else. The way the story was recounted to me by both them, one day my dad quit his job, sold everything and took off while my mom was at work, I guess being an Iowa farm boy he had enough with the big city. My mom got the money together and she and my grandma went to the mid-west to find me. She never gave up and eventually after some time (can’t remember how long) found me. After some trips to the local court house with her lawyer, she brought me back to Southern California. He left her with no money, a mortgage and car and she had to fend for herself. Again, even through all of this, she NEVER had a bad thing to say about him.
- My entire life, I have never lived more than 10 miles from my mother. Even through college, getting married, buying houses, she always found a way to stay close. I never really appreciated having that “safety net” of love and support until after she was gone. That’s probably the thing I miss the most, dropping by when things are especially tough and getting that reassuring support that I’d handle it.
Some of the things that I miss the most.
- Watching her and Darren color Easter eggs. I think Darren did this every year from the time he was three.
- The entire time from her birthday in late November through Christmas. I commented for the first couple of years after she passed away that my mom OWNED this time of year. From incorporating Norwegian food into the menu, to making sure that Darren had Christmas stockings full of goodies, Thanksgiving meals, Christmas Eve/Day, this was by far her favorite time of the year and one I looked forward to every year.
- See her light up when she was with Darren and seeing how much Darren loved his Grandma.
- Watching her perform behind the podium at SOFN. It was so funny to watch because she was 4’11” and the podium was about the same height. Most of the time all you could see was the top of her head but you always knew it was her.
- Knowing that if something came up she would always find a way to help. Running late, forgot to get something, need something made, no questions asked she would just help. In this world there are very few people you can depend upon, she was always there for me.
I feel fortunate to have had many opportunities over the last year of her life to let her know how appreciated she was and how much I loved her. If you took the time to read this, and your parents are still alive, make sure they know how you feel, they could be gone sooner than you think.