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Saturday, May 7, 2011

On Mother's Day, my sweet Mom

You'd never mistake my mother for a "parachute" or "helicopter" parent, the type who drops in or follow their kids to rescue them from every stumble.

Along the way, her generation's progeny figured out how to swim pretty well. OK, Mom, maybe a little too well at times.
My mom and I, on occasion, still bicker about some of my shenanigans. (It was a tiny tattoo!) But we also still mountain bike together.

For all of us on Mother's Day – whether our mothers are with us only in spirit or are alive, whether you fight or don't, no matter how old you are – our moms will always be our moms.

My mom's father, "Mac" Conroy, was the first in his family to climb out of the coal tunnels below Big Mine Run, Pa. He landed a job as a railroad brakeman before becoming a door-to-door salesman.

One fine Saturday morning, my parents went swimming off Taiwan's north shore. They didn't realize the polio virus was in the water.
Pregnant with me, my mother slept for 18 hours. My dad worked through exhaustion, fever and nausea. Diagnosed with polio but unable to get treatment, his body screamed in pain.
My mother spent weeks boiling water and putting hot compresses on his legs. She hated the polio. Still, she was living her dream. And loving it.

Just as she showed me when I was a lad, she taught her grandchild how to wrap a hook through a worm so fish couldn't slip away.
She still practices the toughness that she preached. When Mom, now 84, took a fall last year, she waved off help although she had broken her nose and looked like she'd been in a bar fight.
It was a moment that would have made her own mum proud. And there would have been something else.
As my mom did after we dusted ourselves off, the grandmother I never knew would have hugged her child.
And said, I love you.

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