The Mighty Fortress of Her Heart

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My mother binds our family together. She’s the reason that we all love each other, and the only reason that we all survived growing up. There’s much to be said about this amazing woman who grew up in the country of Michigan. As a child, she was confined to a wheel chair for a time because she had a tumor in her ankle. She also survived rheumatic fever. The worst thing she ever did was disobey my grandfather by going to the swamp to swim, and ended up with a thorn in her foot that got infected. Isn’t that sweet? I wish that was the worst thing I ever did as a kid. She also fell down a couple of wells by jumping over them for fun. I’m glad that well technology has improved since then.

As a young woman she met and married my father, and I was born soon after. This man should have been born in the 1800’s, but was somehow misplaced in time. A wild mountain man, who loves to hunt and endure the hardships of the wilderness. When I was five, my Dad moved us to a bleak, cold place called Three Hills in Alberta, Canada. Aptly named, because of three low hills near the town. This fantastic landmark is about as unexciting as it gets. Calling them hills is a stretch at best. What the place lacks in scenery, it makes up for in…well, freezing temperatures. Let’s face it, it sucked.

When we moved there we all lived in one room that was rented in a basement of someone’s house. This was not glamorous, but it was a warm and wonderful home. You see you have to know my Mom to really understand. My Mom is the kind of person that can make any place be wonderful and happy. She can make things out of nothing and make them beautiful, with arts and crafts, and then she makes it even better with her love. She’s an amazing artist, and I never really appreciated that until I got older. I guess I just got used to my Mom being awesome, and it just seemed normal. But now I can see it in everything she did, and does. From cooking, pottery, sewing, quilting, and decorating, and yes, even curling. (This is a crazy sport where you sweep brooms in front of a heavy rock that slides across the ice toward a distant target) Nothing is beyond her reach.

But for all her incredible talents, she is also very brave and resourceful. My father was out of town for a long time going to Electrician’s school, and learning the trade. This was in the middle of the winter, and the next place we lived in had a coal furnace. We ran out of coal, and my Mom ordered some more. The only problem was that the frost had gotten inside of the coal, and it wouldn’t burn. My coal shoveling mother spread the coal across the entire basement floor, and let it dry out so that we wouldn’t freeze to death, and that’s a very real possibility when the temperatures drop to forty below zero. I can’t even count the times she saved us from disaster. There were many. At times when others would panic and rage wildly, she took over. In the midst of the storm, her’s was the calm voice, like a sea captain surely directing a ship around dangerous shoals. You could go to her with any trouble, and she would make it right–sometimes with great personal sacrifice.

The best thing about Mom is that no matter how bad things get, she can put a shine on it, and have you smiling again in no time. She can turn that frown upside down in a hot minute. It was the little things that she would do to make the best of a bad situation. If food was scarce, she could make a pizza out of hotdogs and dough. Cookies would appear from nowhere, when everyone knew we just didn’t have anything to make them from. She was like a food magician.

Mom always put others before herself. She’s the most selfless person I know, and will help anyone in need. The kind of person that can make six new friends just standing in line at the grocery store. Always has a smile on her face, and never an unkind word for anyone. She sees the best in you, and you want to give that to her. And when you screw up, she always forgives you. I did a lot of screwing up, but Mom never held a grudge, never reminded you about it, never held it in her memory. And when I was wrong, and argued, and was ugly and mean, Mom loved me through it. She loved me so strong that it broke me, and I gave in. She’s stubborn about that, and you never win against her. Especially not in Scrabble.

I’ll never know how she managed to raise five boys and a girl on her own. She worked a full time job, kept a spotless house, and managed to bring a smile to each and every child every day. She went through a divorce, remarried, had multiple heart attacks when she was 48, and outlived every doctor’s diagnosis of living with half a working heart. She died on the operating table, and God sent her right back to us, alive.

There were many times that I felt that other people ruined our lives, that life had kicked us in the teeth, and evil had a pension for dumping stuff on us, but I knew that my Mom would never let us down—and she never has. I could always count on her to make things good for us, and that was all we needed. When danger and fear would come, she stood in the way and took the brunt of it. She is our rock, our safe place—in the mighty fortress of her heart.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom. There’s so many other things you did for us, and are still doing. (Surprising me on my fiftieth birthday!) I just wanted to acknowledge to the world what you’ve done for us, even though it’s just a small part of what you mean to us.

Thank you soooo much. We love you!


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