Her Life Wasn't Easy but She Prevailed- My Inspiration
Tonight I read a buzz about Inspiration by Graham Edwards and his buzz made me think of others who've inspired me. The first person who came to mind was my mom.
Mom did not have an easy life, she grew up with a father who was an abusive Alcoholic and a step mother who was also an abuser and abused herself by my grandfather. I'm fairly certain my 'grandmother,' I use that term lightly, took out her own pain and unresolved anger on my mom. Mom was an only child and was treated like Cinderella, not Cinderella the princess, Cinderella the slave girl.
One evening when mom was seated at the dinner table with her father waiting for dinner to be served she asked what they were having for dinner. My mom's father replied, rabbit. Mom asked her father where he got the rabbit and he said in the back yard! Mom panicked and ran outside to her rabbit's pen. The rabbit was gone. She ran back in and asked where her rabbit was and her father told her in a very cold tone of voice, "on your plate, now eat!" Mom ran to her room crying without anyone coming to console her. A few days later my grandfather was drunk and got upset with my mom, he lunged at her and pushed her. Mom fell face first into a pot belly oven and had third degree burns on one side of her face. He never apologized and actually blamed her for not being more careful. Love was devoid in my mom's life until she met my dad.
My dad knew mom's father was an abusive Alcoholic and his parents knew too. She finally had a family who cared about her like their own daughter, they didn't judge they loved unconditionally. My dad's parents who immigrated from Scotland took my mom under their wing and protected her. After my parents married and had children (I'm the eldest of 5) my dad told my grandfather to never act out in front of him, my mom or us kids, he went on to say, "if you do, you'll never see Shirley or the kids again." My grandfather knew my dad was a man of his word. So, when dad was alive grandpa seemed like a fun and loving guy.
That all changed after dad died. My grandfather would show up at the house threatening my mom and she would have to call the police on several occasions. One afternoon she had to go pick something up at her parent's home and as we were walking up the driveway my grandfather was pulling out in his car. He stuck his head out of the window and yelled, "Get the hell out of my way or I'll run you down!" Mom had my 18 month old sister in her arms and if she wouldn't have jumped, my grandfather would've succeeded in running her and my sister over.
That was it, mom told us we were not going to see our grandparents anymore. She spoke to her father privately and told him if he stopped drinking she might allow him back in our lives. She gave him a choice. I was going to write, he chose the bottle over his only daughter but I guess it makes more sense that the bottle chose him.
The strange part was the idea that I couldn't believe he was THAT horrible. It had only been 2 years since I lost my father and I still had so many good memories of my grandfather who was able to put on a good act when we visited with our mom and dad. I decided to go visit my grandparents on my own one day. I knocked on the door and my grandmother (oh I hate using that term for her), yelled, "The door is open!" I walked in and she was sitting in a chair. I heard my grandfather yelling in the kitchen and things being flung at the wall which came crashing down to the floor. I asked my grandmother what was wrong? She told me, "Oh he's having a fit because he doesn't like his dinner so he threw his plate and glass at the wall." My heart sunk, and I thought, "wow, mom was right, he's scary and a mean man." I honestly don't even remember what I said next, I just remember fleeing the home as fast as I could. I never saw them again, our family never saw them again. The only love my grandfather showed my mom was to stay away because he couldn't stop drinking.
So, what inspired me about my mom? Mom was resilient and had enough love in her heart for all of her children, the neighborhood children and our many neighbors. Mom didn't threaten us, she raised us by example. She never openly felt sorry for herself and mom never shared the abuse she endured with us until years later.
We were poor but never saw ourselves as poor because we always had a warm bed to sleep in, food on the table and an abundant amount of love. Mom was always helping our older neighbors and would send us over to help them too. She always made us breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Many times mom would make extra food and send it to our neighbors who were elderly. After dad died mom took us on family vacations, it helped her to get away because she was grieving but didn't want us to notice. She pinched pennies, literally, in order to take us on road trips. We all had daily chores to do and morning chores on Saturday's before we could go out and enjoy the day. The chores were easy, even though we thought they were a pain, this taught us respect and discipline. My mom had a way of making us look forward to each new day. When the sun rose so did I. I was excited to run outside knowing my mom would be hanging clothes on the clothes line. That was my time alone with her to gab mom's ear off. Mom dried our tears, hugged us when we were hurt or sad and we were never without kisses!
My mother could have chosen a life much like the one she knew but she chose to rise above it and give all of us what she never had- LOVE! Mom would remind us all to never go to bed mad. Mom also reminded us that life wasn't a vacation either. We had balance in our lives and felt very protected.
I don't think it was until I became a parent myself that I was able to honestly appreciate the life we were given. Mom inspired me to work hard for what I wanted or needed. She inspired me to be a good mom, at least to the best of my abilities. In many ways, I raised my children as we were raised. My kids went with me to neighbors homes when they were ill so we could drop off food and check in on them. My daughter worked with me in a food kitchen because I felt it was important for her to understand how complex life is and that we all matter. I had fun doing road trips with my kids when my husband wasn't able to get away. Much of what I did (and my husband) with our kids was free. We would pack up the bikes a lot and find beautiful areas with biking trails to ride our bikes, we spent a lot of time outdoors enjoying nature, after all, the beauty of nature is free! We played a lot of board games with our kids, something I grew up doing too. We visited grandma's house a lot, the kids loved spending time at Grandma's house. Grandma always made them feel extra special. I hope when my own grandchildren look back, they will feel the same- knowing they were loved unconditionally.
Mom had an affinity for water and we spent many summers down at Lake Erie with our toes in the sand or swimming in the water. I'm sure that's where my love for the ocean came from. Once we moved away from Ohio we weren't close to the Lake anymore so I decided to make trips to the Ocean when we could. Mom left me with so many good memories, values and morals. I'm far from perfect but I do a lot of mental inventory because I know there's always room for improvement. Mom taught us that life is a constant lesson and when we stop learning, we stop living. She taught us that life is more than just ABOUT us, it's about those around us. I would much rather be helping another than be the person who needs the help. That truly helps me to put things into perspective. I now see my own children passing on many of the morals and values they were raised with.
I'm so fortunate that I was raised by a selfless woman who inspired me to become a woman who is able to put others needs before my own. Don't get me wrong, I do understand we have to take care of our needs too but I treasure what I have learned by giving instead of expecting from others.
It feels good to be able to remember so many happy times with mom and express how much she did inspire me to try and be a good woman. I make my share of mistakes, don't we all, but I want to think I learn from those mistakes.
I'd like to end this by thanking my mom, a beautiful woman who always put her family first. I also need to give my dad and his parents (my grandparents) major props too, I believe their love for my mom helped to shape her world view.
A Photo of my Mother, father, myself and siblings. One sibling had not been born yet. I was 6 yrs old in this photo