My mom's birthday was last week. It would have been her 70th. In this photo from my first wedding, she was 45. Sadly, she passed away in 2004 at the young age of 61. When someone passes young, you have no memory of them being old and while I can clearly picture my grandfather's face at 80, I have no way of imagining what my mother's face would look like today. Perhaps when I and my sister reach 70, then I'll know.
For most of the years I knew her, my mom was a very hard-working single parent. Although she wasn't perfect (what parent is?) she did her best and I always knew she loved me, even when she was impatient, upset or just being what I thought at the time was Mean Mommy.
My mom was very clear that her primary job as a parent was to produce capable children who would grow into adults that worked hard, contributed to the world and respected others. Make no mistake. My mom was not my girlfriend or my confidante and I thank God for her wisdom every day.
Mom knew it was important for her kids to learn life skills by helping around the house. By the time I was ten, I could do most everything that needed doing. Laundry, dishes, making beds, dusting, cleaning floors, taking care of the garden, taking care of the animals and cooking.
When I was thirteen, we moved into a house we built ourselves and by "built ourselves" I mean my grandfather, uncles, mom, my brother and I actually built it from the ground up with our own hands. Granted, my brother's and my hands weren't nearly as helpful as adult hands, but nonethess we were part of the process. I remember pounding nails, measuring boards, washing salvaged marble tiles and laying tile into countertops at the direction of my uncles. We moved into that house in 1979 and it's where I lived until I left home. It was in that house I learned to tend the garden, can and freeze fresh produce and split and stack logs for firewood. Mom made sure we kids weren't strangers to hard work and for that I am grateful.
In honor of my mom and her life, I'd like to share some of the lessons she taught me. Some she taught me directly in words, (often through clenched teeth) and others were shared lovingly and indirectly through her actions and deeds. Many of these lessons might be the ones your parents taught you, but perhaps a few will make you wonder.
Don't walk on someone else's lawn.
Chew with your mouth closed.
Don't talk with your mouth full.
When you're bad you get hurt.
What goes around comes around.
Life isn't fair.
Earn your own money.
Whatever job you have, do it well. Your name is on it.
The world doesn't owe you a living.
Hard work never killed anybody.
You can't always get what you want.
Treat others with respect.
Treat the property of others with respect.
Look around you. Observe what needs doing. Then do it.
Pay with cash. Lay it away. Write a check. Or don't buy it.
Don't sit on cold concrete. You'll get hemorrhoids.
Don't run the water while you brush your teeth.
Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
Don't take the last cookie.
Do what's right even if it doesn't benefit you personally.
Protect your peace of mind.
I know my mom is at peace and I just hope I've been able to live my life in a way that would have made her proud.