Riff Raff, by Michael Tilley
Editor’s note: This essay was first posted May 10, 2009. It continues to be a true accounting of my great luck in the “Mother” category. Happy Mother’s Day to all who qualify!
A lot has changed in Mom’s world.
The world in 1949, the year of her birth, was a crazy place. Europe was rebuilding its continental economy, the Soviets were rattling their nuclear swords, the U.S. economy was in a wobbly transition from a wartime economy, new Communist governments threatened the alliance of western democracy and a relatively inexperienced former U.S. Senator from middle America was finding his way around the world stage.
A lot has not changed.
The world in 2009 is a crazy place, with Europe trying to restore its continental economy, the Russians (and Iranians and Koreans) rattling their nuclear swords, the U.S. economy in a wobbly transition from a boomtime economy, new Islamist movements threatening the underpinnings of democracy and a certainly inexperienced former U.S. Senator from middle America finding his way around the world as his stage.
Mom has changed, and has helped change people.
She still helps folks. Always has. Volunteers at her church. She works with young women struggling to make good decisions during an unplanned — and often unwanted — pregnancy. She works to protect children caught between family problems, the legal system and government bureaucracy.
She and Dad have helped people start businesses. She’s opened up her home to foster kids. She worked as an around-the-clock caregiver when Lupus began to eat away at Grandma Tilley (her mother-in-law). Took care of her until the end.
For a few years she was active in politics, and ran for school board in a community that wasn’t yet ready for a female to reach that level of decision making. And considering the quality of decision-making, Mom indeed had no business on the school board because she was overqualified, and likely wouldn’t have been able to accommodate the men’s level of competency without first suffering severe head trauma.
And people have changed around her.
Grandma and Grandpa Evans (her parents) both struggled with and died from Alzheimer’s. Possibly the only thing more horrible than being of sound body and losing your mind is watching your parents suffer through that reality.
She changed her two children. Molded them, really. She tells of waking her 18-month old boy and holding him up to the television to watch historic episodes of the Apollo program sending men to the Moon. Am sure I welcomed the historic events by filling a diaper. (“Mom, we have a problem.”)
Whether 18 months or 18 years, she never stopped fueling an interest in the world around me.
Sister has proven a capable and effective family leader with talents inherited and learned from Mom.
We children were fortunate Mom’s tough-love style was never infected by the touchy-feely parenting the educated folks and Dr. Phil advocate. Punishment was consistent, certain and, judging through the more-focused lens of today, fair.
Her children were encouraged to read. Books were plenty and library trips were wonderful parts of the summer. We came together often at supper and had lively discussions about the world around us. It was made clear to her children that our calling in life was to be givers and not takers; to attempt to make better the world around us.
The aforementioned lessons learned were delivered through example rather than lecture. The example of doing more and talking less was indeed the most useful lesson.
Mom fights through the limits of life and tries to stay positive in the midst of her own health issues. It’s the genetics. She’s from the line that believed in hard work, personal accountability, responsible charity and strong faith. They mind their own, laugh when they can, cry when they can’t, love who they trust and trust who they love.
Her children aren’t perfect. They don’t have to be. They’re hers.
Mom is not perfect. She doesn’t have to be. She’s Mom.
And I’m fortunate beyond the average, and well beyond what’s deserved.