I wanted to take a moment away from political commentary and satire this morning to celebrate my Mom’s 84th birthday.
I consider myself extremely blessed that I have this strong, wise, funny, stubborn woman for a Mom.
She was born in Germany just before Adolf Hitler came to power. Her childhood was spent living in a nation at war. When I was younger, my mother didn’t talk about growing up as a child in Germany. But over the last several years, she has shared with me so much about that time.
There’s a 1987 movie called “Hope and Glory” about a young boy growing up in England during World War 2. Seeing the horror of the blitz from the perspective of a child really struck a chord with me given my Mom’s own experiences. Outside Ebrach was a munitions area the Allied bombers were always trying to destroy. When she was about ten or twelve, they came through again to bomb it. While her whole family ran to the basement for safety, my Mom stood at the window because she wanted to see the planes.
My Mom tells this story of when an American fighter pilot was shot down over town. In our modern world, it’s hard for us to comprehend just how bizarre it would be to see an American up close for the first time in your life. But the people of Ebrach — mostly the children — descended on the police station to stare at the guy like he was an animal in the zoo. There he was, outside of the police station, a bandage on his head, smoking cigarettes with the officers. To my Mom he looked like a movie star.
When the Americans finally made it to Ebrach, rather than barricade the roads into town, they let the Americans in. I think by 1945, the German people were more than happy to be conquered by the Allies.
My Mom met my father when he was stationed in Germany in the mid-fifties. They were married in January 1957 and returned to the states via transport ship a short time later. My Mom made the United States of America her new home, and not long after that became a US citizen.
They lived in the city of Syracuse — my father worked for the highway department and my Mom took a job sewing sleeves on shirts at a local clothing manufacturer where she made a dollar and hour (until they gave them a raise of five cents).
They built a house outside of Syracuse on land they purchased from my Dad’s parents. But shortly after I was born, my father died of a brain aneurysm. My mom was left here in the States, a young widow with two children. She became the provider — taking jobs here and there. She sold Amway products, often taking my brother and me along with her when she made her deliveries. When my Dad’s sister Joy went undercover to ferret out a thief at SU’s cafeteria (she was dating a private detective), my Mom worked with her in the cafeteria while they tried to find the culprit. My Aunt, in her daily reports to the private detective, would sign each one “99” (in honor of Barbara Feldon’s character on “Get Smart”). That always makes me laugh.
My Mom is probably the strongest woman I know. From her, I get my stubbornness, my wit, my love of words, my love of gardening, my distaste for idle chit-chat, and my fierce loyalty.
But the greatest gift my Mom ever gave me was empathy.
It was a very uncomfortable gift to receive, let me tell you.
Back in the late sixties after Mom remarried, we moved to Oklahoma for a few years while my Step-Dad went to school at OU. One evening we went to the home of a friend of my Dad’s for dinner. His friend had small kids about our age. While my brother and I were playing with them, we discovered they had some really cool toys we didn’t have.
So we took them.
When my Mom found out, not only did she make us return the toys and apologize for stealing, but she also had us pick out our favorite toys and give them to those kids as well.
I have never forgotten that experience. Rather than just teaching us the consequences of stealing, she took the time to get us to understand just how it feels to have someone take things that belong to us.
I never stole again.
When my life spun off the rails from alcohol addiction, my Mom never once stopped praying for me. Even in the times when she was most frustrated and disappointed in how I was acting, she kept the faith. It is hardly a surprise to me that when I hit rock bottom, the person I reached out to was my Mom.
I am so blessed.
My Mom has never given up — it’s that German stubbornness. She taught me to stand up for myself, to see things through, and trust in God.
At 84, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that Mom is not a computer whiz. But she is a faithful reader of Patriot Retort. I print up every single post and give her the hard copies and, no matter how thick the stack, she reads them all in a matter of minutes. I think she would be happy if I posted fifty times a day just so she’d have more to read.
Any old how.
That’s my Mom. An incredible woman with an amazing life. I am so very blessed to call her Mom.
So, happy birthday, Mom. I love you with all my heart.
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