My mom turned eighty-five today.
She was born in 1927 in Sarasota, Florida. For most of those eighty-five years, she has lived in Florida, in Sarasota, or, later in life, in St. Petersburg. In that, she follows a long line of native Floridians — some of my mother’s ancestors have been living in Florida since before Florida was a state.
For most of those eighty-five years she has been a nurse. She was a stellar nurse, full of caring for those around her. I had her help after the birth of each of my sons, and for the first two seasons that the Rocket Scientist went to Devon Island. I am not sure how all of us would have come through some of those times without her loving and quietly dependable support.
She is for the most part nonjudgmental. When she says she will pray for you, it comes from a deep sense of caring, from an honest (if sometimes mistaken) belief that you would live your life happier if you followed the mandates of her God. Just because you don’t doesn’t make you less of a person in her eyes. She prays for me to find peace, often.
She had to put up with my sometimes difficult father, who grew to be an old man before he would publicly acknowledge her worth in any manner other than condescending. His compliments so often came across as vaguely insulting. She was not an intellectual, as he was, and his snobbery was contagious: I was well grown before I recognized (as he had come to) how remarkable she was. It was commonly agreed among me and my four surviving siblings that while she could live (and has lived) a long and satisfying life after his death, he would have lasted less than five years without her.
She lived through the Great Depression, developing habits that would drive the rest of us crazy years later. (She is an inveterate leftover saver.) She lived through World War II, unhaunted by ghosts except for those that afflicted my father. She lived through the death of one child, and the troubles that afflicted her others. She is, in her way, as steady and dependable as a rock.
She is healthy, and happy, and optimistic. After the death of my father she blossomed into what seemed like an entirely different person — except in the essentials, where she is what she always has been. I always say that I wish I had half her energy, half her joy in life. I have always suspected that she will outlive me. I hope not — somedays it is the thought of her grief should I die, as much as those of my sons, that keeps me headed forward, and caring for myself. No mother should have to outlive her child, and no mother should have to do so twice.
She says she is not afraid to die, and unlike most people who say that, I think she honestly feels that way. She hopes to die like her mother did — my grandmother who went to take a nap in her nursing home one day, and simply didn’t wake up. Her only fear around death — at least that she has told me — is that she will die like her father, who left this world withered and insane from atheriosclerosis, unable to recognize those he loved. She has clearly told all of us that she wants no extraordinary measures to extend her life. When it’s her time to go, she is going hand-in-hand with the Reaper, not kicking and fighting.
I hope that doesn’t happen for many, many more years. Even if I am a bad child who neglectfully does not call her nearly enough, just knowing she is in the world makes me happier.
“You mom is awesome,” The Red-Headed Menace just said. Isn’t she though?
I love you, Mom.