Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Unsinkable Joanie K.

Today is the birthday of my #1 hero: Mom. I am smiling as I write this - merely thinking about her - and I hope that if and when she reads it it gives her cause to smile as well.

Mom has long been a marvel to me. She was married for more than thirty years to my father - an incredibly intense, brilliant and ultimately self-destructive personality - who made his living as an educator. Yet, for all of the stuff Dad taught me during our joint tenancy here on the Big Blue Marble, Mom was the teacher of the important life lessons that I carry with me to this day. At least I hope I do honor to them and to her by carrying them with me.

At this point in her life, Mom has been widowed for almost as long as she was married. I know not what emotions if any that fact stirs up inside of her. It always makes me feel a bit sad. Not for my father necessarily but for Mom. You exchange vows, you take one another for better or for worse and until death tears you apart. No one ever bothers to point out to you that death may come a-callin' for one of you decades earlier than the other.

I suspect that I dwell on Mom's solo status far more than she ever has - or shall. You have to know my mother to appreciate her duck-like ability to allow water to roll off of her back irrespective of its temperature or its temperament. Her #1 life lesson to me when I was a boy was, "Everything happens for a reason........even if the reason is not immediately clear." While I am not sure I understood that philosophy at all when I was 16 or 17 and might still only partially grasp it at 43, my life is a testament to it. Upon graduating from college in 1989 I intended to take only one year off before beginning law school. Being perpetually short-sighted I failed to account for the possibility that I might not get accepted into law school. I was not. Each school I applied to in the Spring of 1990 with the hope of starting my studies there in the Fall of that very same year turned me down - including the one I ultimately earned my J.D. from in 1994.

I was devastated. Hell, more than that I was screwed - or so I thought. I had no "Plan B". I cobbled one together on the fly. It consisted of, "I guess I will move back out to Boulder." That was it, you ask? Indeed it was. Elegant in its simplicity; right?

Mom being Mom listened to me formulate this master plan for most of the Summer of '90 and made no overt effort to talk me out of it. She left me alone to do that which I thought I had to do and what I thought I wanted to do. Finally, in or about early August she mentioned to me that she thought that it might be better to proceed with smaller, safer steps. She suggested that rather than packing up all of my worldly belongings into very cool VW Fox for a permanent relocation West that perhaps I should simply go on a road trip. Take a vacation and allow my head to clear. She did not insist upon me doing it. She simply tossed the idea out there and left it for me to consider.

I ultimately did what Mom suggested. My buddy Loku and I ended up trekking West together so that he could get settled in back in Boulder to complete his work on his graduate studies. I spent a day or two simply walking all over Boulder - feeling like a stranger in a strange land as I watched thousands of kids arriving on campus to begin the school year. I realized right then and there that while I love Boulder and I love CU, it is a place I shall always enjoy visiting but shall never call home. On either the second or third day that I was in town, I wandered over to the UMC, bought myself a one-way ticket on a flight East to Newark and headed home. Amazingly enough, although I flew on Incompetent B*st*rd Airlines my bag arrived in Newark at the same time as I did.

A couple of weeks after I decided not to run away from life, I started a job working at a collection agency, making telephone calls to folks who had past due car loans and credit card bills. I was a decidedly mediocre cog in the machine, performing the mundane tasks of my gig with little sense of purpose. While the job itself was not memorable in the least, it turned out to be a life-changing place to work. I met Margaret there. But for that dumb job I may have never met my wife.

Mom is a gracious winner. In the day or two immediately preceding Margaret/my wedding in June of '93, without saying, "I told you so", she and I spoke about the great summer of my discontentment. She reminded me of her mantra about things happening for a reason and reminded me that but for not getting accepted into law school for admission in '90 I would not have ended up working in a place where I met the woman who saved my life....

....Actually Margaret is the second one to do so. To the original life-saver today, I say Happy Birthday Mom! This one's for you.

-AK

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