Today my mother would have been 80 years old.
I wish she was still around to mark the milestone, but only if she was in a healthy state.
My mother and I were total opposites and we clashed plenty, especially during the time I was my mother’s caregiver. Much of those battles, some humorous, some painful, are captured in a series of essays that I hope to publish later this year. (It’s in the final edit phase now.)
But today is a day of celebration, and even though my mom could drive me crazy, she had many wonderful qualities that she tried to pass on to me. In honor of her 80th, here are 8 ways that I remember my mother and try to carry on her legacy.
- Her sense of humor: Yes, it was corny as could be, but my mother loved to laugh. Even as she faced cancer, she still found ways to sneak in a bit of levity to the situation. We were all better for it. I have a much snarkier, darker sense of humor, but it’s there, and it did help me cope with the difficulties of caregiving.
- Her love of family: Sometimes I found it smothering, but I know my mother truly loved me. In a world where children can be treated so cruelly, I know I’m fortunate to have had good, kind parents. Everyone has their faults, but even when Mom drove me nuts, she was doing it out of a place of love and concern.
- Being a caregiver for my father: I may not have agreed with all of the decisions Mom made for Dad near the end of his life, but she earned the right to call the shots after taking care of him on her own for years. I helped where I could, but Mom was the one hands-on with Dad 24/7, as he lost his grip on reality thanks to dementia. Mom made the grueling Greyhound trips to see Dad at the memory care center, while she nursed a broken shoulder. Six months after his death, Mom was diagnosed with cancer. I think she paid the ultimate price with her health, but I know she would do it all over again.
- Love of nature: My mother loved nature, whether it was animals or scenery. She even loved the blustery mountain winds that whipped around her condo in New Mexico, saying everything had its place. She may have been right, but those winds are brutal! But I do share her love of animals and an appreciation for the natural wonders of our world. I probably don’t stop enough to “smell the roses” but I make sure our birdfeeder stays full, in memory of Mom.
- Appreciation for the little things: Mom could find delight in the smallest things, whether it was a good cup of coffee or a sunny day. It’s easy to take such things for granted, as I often do, but I try to channel Mom a bit and appreciate those small daily doses of wonder.
- An interest in others: Mom loved to talk, but she also loved connecting with others. She didn’t discriminate in who she conversed with, and she certainly didn’t think she was better than others. The interest she showed in the lives of service workers who took care of her while she was at the bank, at the grocery store, or at the salon was admirable. I could tell by their reaction that many people treat service workers as if they were invisible. I’m not the chatty type, but I do make sure to make eye contact, smile and thank the person assisting me, to honor Mom’s legacy.
- Her interest in the world around her: Mom maintained a keen interest in news until she died. She cared about world issues and was troubled by war and famine. She read the newspaper voraciously, and even though rehashing week-old news could test my patience, I admired her vested interest in the world around her. As a journalist, caring about these issues is my job, but it’s also my passion.
- Her love of music: Mom loved the classic country and classic pop music of her youth, which included Elvis, Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and many more legends. I’ve had a love of music since my youth, and while I enjoy music from many genres, I gravitate towards these classic country artists, as well as some new ones who are channeling their outlaw spirit.