My mother passed away 3 years ago today. She was everything moms are, and to me, much more. Mom gave her time and energies to many worthy causes, just not usually the named ones, or the visible, or noteable problems surrounding her. She instead was happy to do for others, individually, without acclaim, and made no issue if such didn’t work out perfectly. She was a rare breed to me: able to smile and laugh after many life events would have caused others countless tears and resentments to undermine their future.
She taught me how to play baseball in a backyard in Winchester, Tennessee, hitting me pop ups and grounders and the like throughout the early spring until the shadows of fall arrived and football began. She’d pitch some to me, but a busted window, stop that form of practice. Our times in the backyards, playing catch, were relaxing and ways to connect that I lacked with the usual suspect in such stories: a father. She loved all sports, played on the Marine Corps traveling softball team, and rooted for her Minnesota Vikings, particularly Fran Tarkenton. We just had that together – from playing the games – to watching our favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, improve in the 1980s once we left that Tennessee residence.
My mother ran a clothing consignment shop too for over 20 years in Lowell, Indiana, for five as an associate, then as the owner. Such a marginal business wouldn’t win her any awards, or be acclaimed for its bottom line, or be seen as cutting edge – in fact, she never used a computer to track things, through 2006 – but she sold well over $2M of goods. She did all “the books” by hand – bookkeeper and associate’s accounting degree from a C+ high school student – and did all the marking of items that came in, daily. She worked 10-12 hours without complaint. She had thousands of consignors, many good customer/friends, and through her efforts, put me in (and through) college at Purdue University. She found the time to somehow watch sports or listen to the Cubs on the shop’s radio set to 720AM. And she worked second jobs too – to make it.
She made it with enormous efforts, limited time, and lots of energy. She thought more of others than herself, and that ignoring of self had its consequences later in life.
She was all-American, 1st team, center fielder for her entire life. She ran down the deep flies. Turned gap hits into singles. Cut down the best base runners with her accurate throws. She hustled, she made life better for others around her, and especially, myself. I wrote this around the time of her passing:
To give a hint of her metal: We often did not have a car – or rather – her husband left her without one to do chores, like laundry. She and I would load up a little red Radio Flyer wagon and walk three miles in oppressive Southern heat to a laundry mat on Cowan Road in Winchester, Tennessee. Sometimes we had a dog, Lady or Runt, and they would scamper along beside us as we trekked to our destination. My mom made sure she had quarters left for me to play Ms. Pacman, or pinball at the mat. But the chores got done first.
She always got through it with less. She was truly American as baseball and apple pie.
Mom, I miss you.