Mom was born in 1936, in the waning years of the Great Depression, to two hard working parents of modest means. She was the oldest of several children, and learned a number of lessons growing up, which she later taught me.
Mom taught me the value of hard work. When I was growing up, we had chores to do. Whether it was pulling weeds, running the vacuum cleaner, or snapping green beans from the garden, there was always work to be done…..and always a kid to do the job. Now, today, I’m still not a fan of gardening, weeding, or running the vacuum cleaner….but I know when to buckle down and get the job done, even if it’s not a fun one.
Mom taught me the value of money – having grown up when she did, and the circumstances she went through, money and stability went hand in hand. While we were never rich, we never felt poor, either… If we wanted something, we had to save up for it. Instead of buying on credit…..we put things on layaway…for when we had the money to buy it. We paid cash…and despite being able to ‘qualify’ for more, I’ve been reluctant to take on any debt outside of a mortgage. Whenever I’ve had to make a large purchase, I’d shop aggressively to get the best deal….and pay cash for it….because saving money for a large purchase was less stressful than carrying the debt in the future.
Mom taught me the value of treating others with respect. Other adults were called Sir, or Ma’am, or Mr Smith, or Mrs Johnson. Whether it was the doctor, a police officer, or the janitor at the local fast food restaurant, you said, please…and thank you. You didn’t have to LIKE someone, but you DID have to get along. If a teacher was harsh on you….they were still the teacher. Respect was the currency for a civil world.
Mom taught me the importance of righting a wrong. When I was no older than six years old, I took a comic book without paying for it. When I showed up at home with a new comic book….which only cost a quarter…..Mom wanted to know where I got the money. When she realized I had stolen it, she ordered me BACK to the store to return the comic book…..admit that I’d stolen it, and APOLOGIZE to the owner. Believe me, that was a lesson I never cared to repeat.
Mom taught me the importance of seeing something through to the end. Those of you who have known me, know I have a tendency to do things that are, shall we say, a bit challenging. From running up the Empire State Building, to riding my bike up Mount Mitchell, to running the Marine Corps Marathon, that all comes from Mom….who, maybe surprisingly, has never been athletic. When she was younger, she studied to be a nurse, but had to leave the program before graduation. After losing that opportunity, and going through a painful divorce, Mom was a single parent, with 4 kids…..and after a time on public assistance and help from relatives, landed a factory job with General Motors. For the next 30 years, she went to work in a factory job, and rarely, if ever complained about it. The job paid the bills, provided insurance, and gave much-needed stability to the family.
Fast forward over 30 years…..Mom retired from GM after 30 years of service, at age 65…..and in less time than it took for the dust to settle….went BACK to nursing school. She attended with students less than 1/3 her age, taking chemistry, biology, math….and doing rounds at the hospital. Over the next few years, Mom worked hard to get back in the swing of studying something that she had on her mind for decades….graduated from college, and passed her licensing as a Registered Nurse.
If you want to know why I have the tenacity I do….you know where I get it from….
Blame it on Mom.
Is there someone in your life who’s influenced who you are today? Let me hear about it in the comments.