Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day to My Second Mom

Don't let the title fool you. My second mom is second to none. She stands less than 5 feet tall, and she is quite the little fire cracker in the most understated calm way one can imagine. I think Teddy Roosevelt had her in mind when he said, "speak softly and carry a big stick."

My second mom is also known as Mimi to my son and stepdaughter and all the many grandchildren she and my Pops (see: have had biologically, by marriage, or through kids like Gus and me who kind of lucked out and landed a permanent place in the family by default. She's the kind of mom that says, "drop off the kids and go away..." and then takes the kids away to be spoiled and expects the troops to rally back together when she calls a few hours later to meet for a cook out at the house or at the local steak house. We big kids kid about it all the time.... we kind of lost our cuteness years ago with all the little mini-me(s) running around looking angelic and charming, but my only regret is that my second mom is too far away to take my kids and shoo me away more often only to be summoned back for lunch or dinner with no excuses accepted for not showing a few hours later. Such would be bliss.

I met my second mom for the first time one crazy night when I was on a first date with her oldest son in 1986. He was a high school senior, and I was a junior, and we were both fairly shy. He was the cutest kid who wore the shortest, yet preppiest shorts because he was a runner... a very serious and all business runner.... and oh... he had the most amazing legs I've ever seen in my life, and judging by his attire, I'm pretty sure he knew it too.

Anyway, we were running late from our date for whatever reason and my curfew was at midnight... pronto... no excuses for being a single minute late, or I'd be grounded the next weekend. There was no way he could drive me home that fast. What I didn't mention is that my mother was also that shy boy's English teacher, and he was already catching a lot of flak from his more outgoing outspoken best friends for dating his English teacher's daughter and seemed pretty embarrassed by the attention and by having to face her in class. I should have felt special that he put up with all the good natured ribbing on my behalf, especially given my own mother's special brand of humor he probably endured in her room. So instead of taking me home a few minutes late, he took what might have been the biggest gamble of his life to date by knowingly making me later than I'd ever been so he could go to his house and get HIS mom to fix everything. He ran in his house and begged her to call my mother and "do something!" This was the first time I met her and he assured me she was totally cool. She was extremely cool, calm, and collected. She had a short, pleasant conversation with my mom on the phone, was extremely nice to me, and I went home unscathed and totally not grounded (!!!) even though I was very late by my parents' strict standards. Even my hard to please dad loved the guy that walked in the garage and leaned under the hood of his drag racing car to discuss the mechanics. I knew his mom had something pretty special the way she had both of us coasting through my house and Mike standing around chatting with my dad as if it were tea time! She was definitely cool in my book. I met her a few more times through Mike at his house and at dinner after his graduation. Enjoy the accompanying picture with the white dress, patterned *ahem* white hose, and red heels slightly peeking out that I wore to Mike's graduation in 1986. Little did any of us know at the time how much life would soon change.

A few months later my mother died due to complications of a bone marrow transplant and then unexpectedly three weeks later Mike died abruptly, unfairly, and with a sudden loss there's just no words to express at the hands of a drunk driver. I wouldn't have blamed them if their grief had taken them miles away from me as I was deep in my own, but instead they pulled me into the fold as tightly as they could and decided we were going to get through our grief together, and thank God for that. Their youngest son, Corey, who looked and sounded so much like his oldest brother that I didn't know whether to laugh or cry the first time I met him was just as welcoming. They didn't just welcome me that year, they also welcomed an exchange student from Mexico for a year. This picture is all of us nearly 19 years later at my wedding in Texas including Gustavo, the exchange student, who like me is just one of the clan now.

My second mom has been there from the time at Mike's funeral when she pulled me aside and quietly but definitely asked me to ride in the family car with them to the following year when they literally built an extra bedroom on to their house for me (yes, really) to the following year when she "kicked me out" (again...really) and straight into the dorm room at the local university where I was registered for the classes that she "made" me enroll, to my senior year after my father passed away and I was struggling when they brought me back home until I graduated. Oh yes, once again I was living under their roof so there was absolutely no choice but to lock up that degree that year as promised and that I did. Both she and Pops are highly educated and super hardworking people who had very high expectations of their chosen adopted one. She was there with Pops standing tall... all almost 5 feet tall of her... at my graduation. I think that might have been one of her more vocally rowdier moments in life when I graduated with that degree. Normally she gets everything across without raising her voice and one knows she means business just by a look, but every know and then she'll let out a whoop, and that was a whoop kind of moment.

My second mom is a nurse who has done just about everything there is to do in her field. Now she's my free nurse hot line. I'm sure she wasn't expecting all the years she worked tediously on her masters degree while working full time nursing to become the grandma hot line, but I know for a fact I'm not the only one dialing that number! (You know who you are! :)

She also has gotten to know my family very well over the years including my dad, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and my brother's family. There is really no one I'm related to that's important to me that she hasn't made a point of getting to know well. My grandmother especially thought of their family as our family and many Sunday family meals the family lines blurred as our families became one big family. I still treasure those after church Sunday lunches. (The first picture is of us washing dishes long ago after one of those Sunday dinners at Granny's house.) After my grandmother passed away, I was devastated. I didn't want to go back to Tennessee for Christmas. I didn't want to stay in Texas either. At the time I was also still fairly newly single after a broken engagement from the previous year, and I just felt at loss to make a decision how to spend the holidays. One day my second mom called me out of the blue and said to pack a bag. We were going to New York City for the holidays. Ha! New York City! Yes, I felt very loved, and I'd never been colder in my life! I was really blessed.

A few years later she came to Texas with Pops to do some wedding planning with me and take in the Houston Rodeo with my fiance, stepdaughter to be, and me. She was my mom at my wedding in so many ways from start to finish, especially behind the scenes.

She flew in two years later while I was in labor with my son and kept trying to calm me when eight hours of hard, active labor just wasn't producing my eleven day late little (too big) boy and convinced me that I had done all I could on my own. It had been 24 hours since my water broke, and I don't think I would have quit trying if she hadn't been there to tell me I hadn't done anything wrong and there was nothing more I could do. I was exhausted and could barely stay awake through surgery so it was the right call, and she hung in there all night with me not leaving until close to 6am. I'm pretty sure that was a mom thing right there. She sent my husband home one night from the hospital and stayed in my room and held my baby that wouldn't stop crying at. all. Well, at least until SHE held him. :) For his first birthday the next year of course she and Pops packed up and flew to Texas from Tennessee for his birthday party.

For my son's second Christmas we went to Tennessee with my stepdaughter, who would also be turning ten while we were there, and Mimi had invited our exchange student and his family from Mexico. Yes, after all those years we were still in touch, had attended his wedding in Mexico, and likewise he'd gone to Tennessee for their son's wedding, and he'd been a groomsman for mine in Texas, and they consider him a son, a part of their extended family that knows no end. Along with their youngest son's large family we all went to the Smokey Mountains for a few days to stay in one big cabin because my second mom was going to finally have us all together for Christmas and so that's exactly what she did! It was crazy, chaotic, and celebrating my stepdaughter's tenth birthday in the Tennessee mountains with my family was just amazing.

Over the years my second mom has been the real deal. She inherited me as a teenager. She got some parts of me my own mother missed, especially since those last few years I was hanging on to my mother and not going through some of the usual teen stages as I was willing her to live by sparing her (or trying to) my teen grief. Really didn't quite work although I did my best to hide my blossoming "teenage-ness", but we had a closer bond during those last two years together than we would have otherwise. I saved a lot of that drama for after she was gone, and my second mom got the best of all of that. Wasn't she lucky? All the grief, the rebellion, the heartbreak, the tears, the late nights, and still she stuck it out with me. I'm sure she saved my life more than once over the years in more ways than one. There are times I don't want to tell her things because she knows how to dish out the tough love (still does), but the silly thing is she's *almost* always right.... just don't tell her I said that. I've got an image to maintain. :) Without a doubt, I know as I've grown up I've driven her batty on many occasions and maybe even made her proud on a few, but I don't think she would have stuck with me through it all if she didn't love me unconditionally. Biological or not, I guess that is what makes her the real mom deal, isn't it?

During those early years when I first knew her, I competed in several deaf pageants. The first pageant I ever competed in was Miss Deaf Chattanooga in 1989, and the onstage interview question was something like... Outside your family who has influenced your life the most and why? It was such an easy, easy question. I told the audience about Dan and Kathy Jacobson. They were my heroes then and still are. I'm not sure I could answer it quite the same way today because they ARE my family now.

Happy Mother's Day, Kathy! Thank you for being you and letting me be me.

I love you!