Everything I am proud of having done or stood for I owe to my Mother and Father. To my Mom, however, I've always felt I owed a little more. Maybe it started with Ma laboring 31 hours to deliver me, while Dad just nervously pranced the floor. Maybe as an averse-to-sleep, night crying baby, she had to hug me more and the hugged imprint stuck. Maybe it stems from the times I can still remember. Those times when I'd come home from college, and Dad would be teary eyed and happy to see me, and after some simple words, he'd go to bed to rest for his night shift Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper delivery job. Then Mom andI would talk into the night. Mom hung on every college story, collegiate feeling, learning wonderment, friendship made. Often I thought she was dreaming her own youthful college experience through my words. Only after I recently re-read her only book --- ME, typed in 1932 on 21 fading pages as her 8th grade graduation assignment from Cleveland's Brownell Grade School, was I reminded of the dream her son's words lived for her on her couch:
"My ambition is to be a junior high school teacher. I will try to earn my own way through college. I wouldn't enjoy going to a college in Ohio. I would like to go to a college in a different state. I will try to be kind to everybody in college and senior high school. From the wages I earn when I begin work as a teacher I will give part to my parents and keep the rest. During my summer vacation I will travel to different parts of the country. I expert to work as a teacher until I am promoted to the principal of the school. I hope that my future will turn out as I want it too."
As the first college graduate among her sisters' kids, I won't forget what she said after I told her I wanted to go into the Peace Corps upon graduation, "There's nothing more we can teach you, give you. You've got more education than any of us. You've got to know what's best from here on." She didn't want me to be half a world away, but she sent me off with that sturdy independence, warmth and conviction and not a single tear. Sturdy and tearless, the mother I had always loved.
I can remember that Mother. She could be tired and curt, but always unafraid, caring and helpful. For a long time I assumed she'd be that way forever, and I'd always love her. I was right on one of two.
The way I remember her most vividly now is still sitting on the couch, anxious to see me but now hobbled by a stroke, with never seen in younger years, tears on her cheeks and voice. The slow lifting of the arms, the hug and the now rolling tears tugged at my heart. Now her tears and just a little talk would leave her in need of a nap. Sheltered in a blanket and sleeping, I would gaze at my once indomitable mother, wishing for her sake more of that earlier her could return to her.