Many times I have alluded to my mom’s military approach to our upbringing and her inherent drive to succeed despite being a woman in a position of power. There is an element of her personality that made her adept for this path that I rarely mention, her grit, a trait that she boldly instilled in us by being the most demanding person on this planet. As shy and reserved as she appeared to be it turned out she has a soft spot for setting people up to succeed. She’d ride your ass hard because she cared, not because she wanted to. I inherited her stubbornness and resilient, which she nurtured from the get go, resulting in a counterintuitive character flaw: abnegation. She pushed me to sacrifice whatever was necessary, except my dignity and sense of justice. I learned to walk the fine line between straining ourselves and our resources to do what was right, not what was easier.
Her philosophy is very simple: Crying never solves anything. Rolling your sleeves up and getting into the mix is the only acceptable way to turn problems into opportunities. There was no I in team, it was always about the we. About holding each other accountable for the collective benefit. As much as she’d save for retirement and unfortunate events, there was always room in the budget to pamper herself. There wasn’t a day that would go by without the proper hair do, manicure, make up and fashionable, yet proper clothing. Young mom lived outside of her uniform. Older mom wouldn’t be caught dead without hers. Guess she really liked the attention and respect her rank conferred her. It was fun to see her underlings, excuse me, subordinates become her friends once retirement requirements were met and people started to live their pensioners life.
To my benefit, my mother was very aware of her own mortality. It was a certainty of life and she had made peace with this fact. Wills, executor powers and other topics were abundantly discussed with clear instructions of what needed to get done in case she got incapacitated or died. Her acceptance of death as a natural part of being alive wasn’t just brave but admirable. In case anything happened while she was in training or doing business travel she had trained me to take on the role of head of household and caretaker of my sister. She made sure I understood stepping up wasn’t optional, and that if anyone could get through losing her mother and provider it would be me because she had seen to it. I was certain I would never ever find out the hard way if this was true. Sadly brain cancer decided to crash this party, and now I am staring the possibility of losing her. Tic toc goes the countdown clock.
Parents put on a brave face for their children therefore, many kids idolize their parents and put them on the infallible + invincible pedestal. My mom’s imperfections and flaws made her transparent, so I always knew exactly what was going through her mind and who I was dealing with. Egos aside, she may have pretended to have it all under control, and I’d trust she did, but I could feel the anxiety, rage or sadness veiled by her prim and proper demeanor. She could dish it out and she could take it but there was something vulnerable about the exchange even when were not treated as her equals. She’d laugh at our ingenuity which earned us her respect. Truth comes out of the mouths of babes as they say. I’m glad my mother decided to unshield me from the trappings of her protection and laid the law using reason. It makes it worth so much more now when she actually shows cracks on her armor; when she gets emotional about not being there to see us grow beyond her wildest dreams and expectations.
There is not a more gracious warrior than the Colonel, who taught me when to accept defeat and when to go down swinging. As she prepares for the chemo and radiation treatments we stand in awe of what she has not only manage to achieve but of her ability to have created a support system because of how she achieved: with humility, courage, love and deep respect for the people surrounding her. I hope she not only fights but that she gives her condition hell. I’ll do my best to stand proudly by her side to remind her that she did well by us, her daughters. That we appreciate everything she did to make us stronger, more resilient and full of grit.
Happiness may elude me mother, but it is not what you encouraged me to seek. Instead, I choose to love as boldly and as openly as you loved those you served. There is no better legacy.