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Friday, October 24, 2008

A debt I cannot repay.

An overdue note of gratitude to my Mom.

I talk a lot about my Dad here, and for good reason: he's been my hero since I started to talk. My brother and I regarded him as a living god and are still convinced he's immortal, even though we know otherwise. My first published article referred to an incident in my childhood involving a Dad-hater. So I think you have the cut of my jib on Dad.


If you enjoy reading this blog, thank my Mom. From an equally-early age, Mom fed my voracious appetite for all things knowledge-oriented. I became a bibliophile before I hit kindergarten. She plopped the Charlie Brown dictionary down in front of me, got me the 16 volume Book of Knowledge set from a local grocery store--in general, she shaped me into the book-crazed individual I am today.

Yes, Heather, I'm passing the buck. You'll find it harder to blame her. [Worth a shot.]

She went back to college to get her degree when my brother and I were in middle school and let me ransack her college texts (I was especially find of her physical geography text--savannahs! Tundras! Glacial moraines! Yes I'm weird!). In fact, she was the first member of her family to get a college degree, and my sole boast is that I was the first to get the degree right out of high school. She also loves art and worked a lot with ceramics (which rubbed off--you should see our living room wall and bookshelf). Now she's moved on to landscape painting, and one hangs over our computer desk. She also did a neat depiction of Noah's Ark which hangs in the kids' barracks. So, when someone (cough-Heather-cough) asks why I acquired a fifteen volume set of the Encyclopedia of World Art, I think I owe that muse to Mom as well.

Then there's the sense of humor--you'd better be quick on your feet around her or your going to be looking down at a pile of your rhetorical guts. I tend to avoid her when she and Heather are talking--it's usually my intestines looping to the floor in a matter of minutes. You'll walk over--but you'll limp back. Mental quickness isn't a virtue in our household, it's a necessity. Mom, you'll be happy to know that Maddie is using "scare quotes" to punctuate her commentary now.

Oh, I am in such big trouble...

There was another side, too--her professional side. To the extent I care for the least of us, I owe a big debt to her. She was a teacher at the alternative high school in my home town, which was the last chance for a lot of troubled kids. She wept over them and celebrated with them when they bucked the odds. Then she moved on to counseling work with children in the public school system. Same sorrows and rewards.

Finally, there's the Mom side, of course--the one who always waited on me hand and foot when I was wheezing through an asthma attack, the one who was cheering me on during my modest high school football career, and the one who failed to snuff her tears as I left for Europe to study and, later, walked down the aisle on that sunny October day, 9 years ago. The same side that causes all of our kids to swarm over her like a jungle gym whenever we visit.

Thanks, Mom--for everything.

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