If she were still alive, my mother would celebrate her 88th birthday today. A member of what Tom Brokaw termed the greatest generation, her youth was framed and her world view shaped by the Depression and World War II.
Although a very intelligent woman, my mother did not attend college. The limited career options for women in the late 1930s — teaching, nursing — did not appeal to her, and she respected her parents’ limited means too much to spend their money unnecessarily. This was unfortunate, as I sensed that she forever felt a stigma that she didn’t attend college. The lack of a degree certainly did not reflect a lack of capability, nor did it hinder her. She ran a business, successfully passed her real estate and broker’s examinations, sold real estate, was active in the community and her church, and read and wrote voraciously. She even migrated from a PC to a Mac at age 85.
Divorced after an abusive marriage, a marriage she never regretted because of me, she had to make her own way in the world. This was before equal rights for women emerged in the national psyche or had been codified into law. Nonetheless, she quietly pioneered her way and, although sympathetic to the principles, never endorsed the women’s liberation movement. She felt she had achieved her goals without all the “hoopla.”
After I was launched into college and career, my mother lived an independent and contented life. I always hoped she would find a Prince Charming to share her later years; she had opportunities, yet preferred living alone.
Mom, I miss your e-mails, our chats and visits, and your wide-ranging commentary. You were so engaged in the world’s affairs, a trait I have inherited. We didn’t share the same perspective on politics, though, much to our mutual frustration at times.
As I mark this anniversary of your life, there is so much for which I am thankful. I think of your constant encouragement and, particularly when I was young, your willingness to let me pursue my dreams and support me along the way. In later years, you confided that you had doubts about those dreams from time to time; yet I didn’t know it. As a parent myself, now, I have a much, much better appreciation for all you did.
Bless you. And Happy Birthday.