My mom would have been 90 years old today. When my dad turned 90, we threw a big party. But my mom died in 2007, so instead, I’ll honor her my own way, with photos and words.
I find it hard to imagine my mom at 90, both because she was so frail her last few years and because so much has changed in the last 15 years. New great-grandchildren have come along, her own kids have mostly moved out of California, into new jobs and some into retirement, and the world itself is different. Selfishly, I would have wanted her to see my little trailer and read about my adventures from the comfort of her worn blue recliner, safe in her bedroom. I know she’d be supporting the choices I made to get here, as she always did when she was alive.
She made her choices too, some out of fear, some out of love, and built the best life she could from those choices. After a year at UCLA, she dropped out in 1950 to get married, stay home, and have kids, a common enough choice at that time.
I don’t think she could imagine herself going against that standard, being a career woman, a single woman out there in the world. She’d rented a room that year from an unmarried librarian with cats (such the stereotype) and so she had seen that life up close and somehow couldn’t imagine herself following that path. So the wedding, the honeymoon, and then the kids, all in short order. By the time she was 25, she had four of us. (I’m grateful for one of her choices, to convert to Catholicism after the birth of her first child because it meant they wouldn’t stop at two kids, and I was number three in the final lineup.)
My mom wasn’t perfect, or even close to the ideal mother when I was growing up. She was a functional alcoholic from as early as I can remember until a few years after I left home for my third year of college, the bottle of vodka hidden away in one cupboard or another in the kitchen, where I guess she thought we wouldn’t see it. But we did. I did. I knew, but we didn’t talk about it, ever.
When she was 48, she chose sobriety, for reasons I still don’t know, perhaps too personal for her to ever reveal to anyone other than her AA sponsor. She held on to that sobriety for 27 years, until the day she died, and she was justifiably proud of that accomplishment. At some point in her later years, when we were talking about me being her healthcare power of attorney, she asked me to put “Friend of Bill W” in her obituary when she died (which I did).
I learned a lot from my mom: what I wanted, what I didn’t want, and how to change my choices if I wanted to. She went back to school after we were mostly grown, earning three degrees (AA, BA, and MLS) to become the librarian she’d wanted to be since she was a child.
She and my dad raised two grandchildren, long after they’d thought they’d be out of the child-rearing game and heading towards a relaxing retirement. Instead, they chose two boys, 7 and 9 years old, signing themselves up for all the angst of middle school dances, high school rebellions, and family dramas. But, eventually, as the original four did, those two kids grew up into pretty cool adults.
In thinking about her life since she died, I’ve come to understand more about my mom, from her fears and flaws to her determination and courage. She asked me to pull the plug on her if it ever came to that (which I did); she knew what that would cost me because she had done it for a close friend many years before.
Despite some rocky years in their marriage, my parents lasted 57 years, her whole adult life. She wouldn’t let us throw them a 50th anniversary party until about 3 months before the date, and then relented, admitting it was indeed pretty damn amazing to hold a relationship together for that long.
I look at photos of her now, Brownie troop leader, proud mom in the living room family portraits where dad wasn’t in the photo because he was holding the camera, her showing off her shiny new MLS degree, the two of them celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary not long after my dad’s life-changing stroke. All I see now is love, from day one till the end.
Happy birthday, Mom, and thanks, for everything.
That’s how you know you love someone, I guess when you can’t experience anything without wishing the other person were there to see it, too.
Kaui Hart Hemmings (The Descendants)
14 thoughts on “Mom’s 90th Birthday Remembrance”
Beautiful tribute to a woman who wasn’t perfect but did her best, which is all we can ask of anyone, including ourselves. That she went back and finished school is so great, and she realized her dream job. AND raised 6 kids. Sounds kind of like my mom, who raised 4 in the same time period, and was married 53 years until she died at age 75 from an aneurism in 2004. Hugs. I know you miss her every day.
Beautiful tribute, Annie. I wish I could have met your mom.
Thanks for sharing this. It touched me…
What a wonderful tribute to the lady my parents always considered a good friend, thanks for sharing Annie.
Too touching to comment. I only wish I could put my feelings for my mom in words.
Beautiful remembrance Annie. Your Mom lived a full life, and I love what you chose to share about your dear Mom.
Honest and compassionate remembrance.
Quite a woman. You definitely have her determination!
What a lovely remembrance! That banner photo is da bomb! Also, as I know this will make you laugh, my post workout dyslexic brain read the title as Mom’s GOTH Birthday Remembrance! That made me LOL when I read it again…Geesh…Anyway, enjoy all the fond memories:)
Thanks for this beautiful story, the sweet family photos and the link to your Mom’s obituary. My Mom worked at the Buena Park library for many years after all seven kids were in school, so I see some parallels with their lives! We lost her 25 years ago to breast cancer, and I miss her still. Happy Birthday to your Ma!
Thank you for sharing Annie! You are such an amazing friend and I love reading about your mom. Life may have not been perfect for her, but her accomplishments throughout life were big. She definitely influenced you to be the wonderful Annie that you are! ❤️
wow – HB to Annie’s Mom
hard to believe that I am just 4 year younger than your Mom. She was a strong and determined woman – and you are too.
HBD to your Mom!!