I am feeling pensive these days. I recently celebrated by seventy second birthday and this year of 2020 has kept me rather isolated at home for many months. It appears that it may take at least another six months before I may be in line for a vaccine for Covid-19 so I have lots of time for looking forward to the future and backward on my own evolution as a person.
One of the most wonderful aspects of my mother was that she did not attempt to impose her will and ways of doing things on me and my brothers. Of course there were rules to follow and common manners that she expected us to use, but insofar as developing our personalities and our interests she very wisely encouraged each of us to follow our own dreams. As a result the three of us are unique individuals who share many traits and a strong love of family but are otherwise very different.
My father was absent from my life after I was eight years old but somehow his spirit seemed to influence me on every step of my journey. I embraced his love of music and reading and learning and it ultimately led me to a career in education. My middle brother also felt his influence but seemed to foster more of our dad’s mechanical, mathematical and engineering traits. While my youngest brother was only two when Daddy died he inherited our father’s gregariousness, wit, and love of sports and the outdoors. It is as though we each emulated a piece of the man that he was.
My mother was devoted to home and family but she also had a brilliant mind that drove her to be a lifelong learner. She was the kind of person who lit up a room whenever she arrived at a gathering. She had a big personality with a heart to match. I tended to be quieter, more reserved. I suppose I always felt as though I was more like my Grandma Minnie than my mother. People would tell me that I was the image of my mom but I have photos of my grandmother that put a lie to that thought.
For a time I wished to be more like my mother who was bold and beautiful, but eventually I came to embrace who I was. I blend in with a crowd. My voice is soft and there is nothing particularly exciting about my appearance. This has become a kind of gift to me because it allows me to observe the world around me without much notice from others. I have become quite comfortable with myself and my thoughts. I watch the world and then record what I see in my writing. I actually enjoy not being noticed.
My mother taught me to be flexible and determined. She showed me how to deal with setbacks and unexpected changes. She helped me to retain my optimism even when the world around me felt dark and uninviting. She convinced me that every person has a purpose and when he/she finds it life becomes gloriously happy. She showed me that money and things were transitory.
I remember a time long ago when my grandparents and aunts and uncles were arguing over whether I was more like my mother or my father. It was a debate that was never resolved because I am in fact a little bit like each of them but mostly like myself. People tended to see what they wanted to see in me but I know that I have carefully become the kind of person that I wanted to be, a hybrid of my DNA, my upbringing, my education and all of the people that I have known.
I love that my brothers and I have stayed true to ourselves and that my mother never once attempted to mold us into clones of either her or my father. She was happy with us just as we are. I tried to be the same with my daughters and I think I did a fairly good job in that regard. I learned how difficult it is to maintain a balance between creating a foundation of moral character for my girls and encouraging them to follow the dictates of their own hearts. Ultimately each of us has to be our own person and sometimes we make choices that those closest to us do not understand.
Over the course of my lifetime there have been those who have wondered why I did not become a lawyer or a doctor or someone who might have acquired more power and money. I certainly had the intelligence and skills to achieve virtually anything I desired. In truth those things did not excite me like teaching has always done. In many ways I feel as though I was born to be an educator and I always wanted to stay as close to the classroom and the students as possible. I made a conscious decision to forgo a high income to do what I believed to be a vocation. My mother always supported me in that regard.
My parents gave me and my brothers many gifts but more than anything our mother most especially was always overjoyed to see us just being happy. Her unconditional love and support made us strong and confident that our choices were exactly right. I did not have to be just like either my father or my mother, and neither did my brothers. We are able to celebrate how different we are and know that it is good. I love being myself.