Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Rock of Joanbraltar

The indomitable Joanie K celebrates a birthday today.   I am math-challenged so it is entirely possible that I am off by a year or two - one way or the other - but I am fairly confident that this very morning Mom commences her 84th trip around the Sun.  Happy Birthday Mom from your #3 Son (#1 if we are being arranged alphabetically....or reverse height order). 

My mother is the hero of my life.  She is the single bravest, stubbornest human being I have ever encountered.  A lifetime ago Mr. Springsteen sang, "We learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned in school."  For me, it was Mom - not music - that served as my eternal font of knowledge.   I endured thirteen years of secondary school, four years of college and three years of law school.  Nothing taught to me in those two decades of "book learning" holds a candle to what I learned from Mom. 

For while today is her birthday, in my experience she has been the giver of the gifts.  We are thirty-two years removed from Dad's death.  She has now lived as long as the widow of William P. Kenny, Sr. as she did as his wife.  At the time he died, Dad generated approximately 85% of the household income.  I was fourteen.  As little as I knew about the world - at least prior to May 31, 1981 - I knew enough to be scared of what was ahead of us.  If I was scared, Mom had to have been terrified.  I know she was.  Yet she internalized all of it.  I used to lie awake in my bed at night, trying to come to grips with the shit sandwich that had just been dropped onto our plates.  Alone in the darkened silence of our home, I would have been able to hear Mom crying or giving voice to her own fears and trepidation.  I never heard a sound.  Not one. 

Less than three years after Dad died, Mom received devastating medical news:  she had breast cancer.  She underwent invasive surgery, a radical mastectomy, within days of the diagnosis.  In my mind's eye I still recall the matter-of-fact way in which she broke the news to me.  She and I had reservations to go to California to visit Kara during W-H's Spring Break.  Mom came home from the doctor and said, "We cannot go to California.  My doctor told me I have breast cancer.  I am going into the hospital to have surgery to remove the cancer and my breast."  She hugged me and then walked past me down the hall to her bedroom to get changed out of her work clothes.  Two or three days later, we were off to Somerset Medical Center. 

Far too often in the last thirty-two years, Mom has battled health issues.  Some have been mere annoyances.  Others have been serious business.  Through it all, she has simply kept on keeping on.  I know that there are days - likely too many to count - when she feels nowhere near up to snuff.  Yet, with metronomic precision, when asked how she is feeling she shall always answer, "Fine!"  I have never known a person in my life who responds to life-altering events as if they were mere hiccups in her day-to-day quite like Mom. 

The limitations and flaws that I carry with me through my day-to-day are mine and mine alone.  I own them.  My attributes and good qualities (few as they may be) that accompany me on my day-to-day are gifts that Mom bestowed upon me.  I am not as good a man as I could be.  I am significantly better than I otherwise ever could have hoped to be, though, because of her.  

My rock.  My hero.  My mother.  Happy Birthday Mom.  I send you my love and the hope that whatever your wish, it is a really, really big one and that it comes true for you.   

You certainly deserve it.


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