When I first told my Mother that Geoff and I wanted to do a fundraiser for the Michael J Fox Foundation she thought the idea sounded great. That is until I told her that we had decided to climb a mountain. Her first impression went from “great” to “are you kidding me?” when I told her we were going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, East Africa. In retrospect, I should have worked on my delivery a little more before just spitting it out but really, it was just not a subject that you can possibly prepare for.
I am my Mother’s child. Even at the age of fifty-one, I am still in many ways that little girl with the long ponytail that she has protected from the day I was born. Never having a child of my own I believe in some respects still qualifies me to be her child forever. I always wondered if a parent’s viewpoint changes when their child has a child. Is that the turning point when a parent sees that their child has finally reached adulthood?
My mother has taught me many things over our fifty-one year relationship. She taught me at a very young age that she would always be there – through thick and thin, good times or bad times, she would stand by me. We have had what I would call a close bond as long as I can remember. At times, after I moved away from home, she would instinctively phone me to say “what’s wrong”, and there would be something wrong. She just had a sixth sense with her girl.
My Mother was raised in a Christian home in Northern Alabama. My Grandfather was a farmer and my Grandmother kept the home and raised her three children. My mother was the oldest. Some of my Mother’s first memories are of the entire family picking cotton. There was nothing unusual about this, it was what most people in their area did. From the time she was seven or eight years old she worked in the cotton fields when the cotton was ready to pick and then she and all of the other children would return to school.
“Mom”, as I call her, picked cotton until the day before she married my Father at the age of seventeen. Shortly after the wedding my parents left Alabama and moved to Indiana so my Father could attend college. I came along eight years later and by this time Mom had gone to work for General Motors.
Working for the auto industry, I am sure was no walk in the park in the mid-fifties. My Mom, over the years, probably did most every job in her plant, and eventually after more than twenty years of working on an assembly line, she moved into a procurement position for the company. She finally retired a few years ago after thirty-nine years.
After I settled in Florida and Mom retired, she came down from Indiana for Thanksgiving. One afternoon while sitting on the screen porch she said, “you know, maybe I should sell the house and move down to Florida”. Thirty minutes later , I was on the phone to the same realtor she bought her house from thirty years earlier, and we immediately listed her house. If anything was ever meant to be I guess it was this move. One week later the house sold with an almost full price offer and about a month later she officially became a Floridian.
Having Mom right around the corner from me has been such a delight. I do not think you can ever make up for those years apart but we have given it our best shot. We are close enough for me to ride my bicycle over to her house. Over the years we have planted flowers, cooked, shopped, lunched and just enjoyed being together and she has become a loving “Birdy Granny” to Gracie. Grace absolutely adores Granny and has even picked up a few of her southern sayings. The two of them are pretty cute together and if you had ever told me that my Mom could fall head over heals in love with a parrot I would have called you crazy!!
Since the launch of Parker’s Climb a little over two weeks ago, and my announcement to Mom that we were taking on the mountain, she and I have not discussed it. I knew she was concerned over her child climbing a mountain in a country very far from home. I just knew she had to come to accept this one without any input from her child.
Tonight Mom asked how I liked my new fitness trainer. I told her I really liked John and was pretty excited about working with him. Her response was just uncanny, it just totally caught me by surprise. She simply said, “well you better be working out hard, you have two mountains to climb”. My only response was “yeah, I do”‘ but at the same instance I felt like maybe I had just grown up a little more in her eyes.
Mom, I will write this to you now – The strength that I will find to climb this mountain will come from the same pool that I pulled from the day that we learned Geoff had Parkinson’s Disease. When I could not catch my breath for days and weeks and months because of this disease you were there. You held my hand, you talked when I needed to and you were silent when I could not speak. You were there for me as you are today, and as you have been my whole life. You taught me at a very young age that I could do anything, and I can. It is your strength that drives me – you taught me well. And for this, I love you!
*This post is dedicated to my Mom, the strongest woman I have ever known.*