Back to the story. So I'm asked who is your hero and I quickly skip through all the athletes, astronauts, action figures, military leaders, world leaders and spiritual leaders, and went straight to somebody I knew really well . . . my mom.
My dad skedaddled, (funny how "dad" is in the middle of that word!), when he decided marriage wasn't a good fit for him. My mom packed up the car with her mother, me, and whatever else she could fit into a navy blue 1949 Ford and drove from El Paso to San Diego at the ripe old age of twenty-two. Just to make sure we're clear here, Mom was twenty-two. I wasn't even two. She had no friends, no relatives, no job in San Diego. She had visited once with my Dad and thought it looked like a nice place to live. There was a great zoo you could take a kid to. 1950 was a different time. She was a courageous young lady. Mom had dropped out of college to get married and bounced around the country with my Dad as he worked his way through a series of jobs as an engineer.
She quickly found work in San Diego, soon bought a home and showered a whole lot of love on our tiny little family of three generations. Yes, I was raised by two women. Men, if you ever get into a game of "Battle Of The Sexes" you definitely want me on your team. I know way too many answers on those female cards!
Carving out a living in the 1950's wasn't easy for a single mom. This was way before the "Women's Lib" movement of the late 1960's. She complained about doing the same work as a man and getting paid less for it. But being the head of the family she had to be first and foremost a problem solver. So she took on a second job, running her own business teaching piano in the evenings. Soon she had a full 'studio' of kids and was putting on annual recitals.
There was always a shortage of money. Mom spent hours budgeting to make the ends meet, but through it all there never was a lack of love. Not only did she shower love on me, but she also shared with me the great loves of her life: God, family and music. Those loves and values became so central to my being that to this day, sixty years later, I look back and see how those things are the solid foundation upon which my life has been built. Dragging up a kid with a passion for God, family and music . . . not a bad way to go! You did good, mom. Real good.
Oh, she also instilled in me her love of riding. When she was a kid growing up in southeastern Colorado it was riding horses. As a teenager, she became a state champion trick rider. That was just before the high school Principal came to call her out of class and tell her that her dad had been killed in a plane crash. He was an avid pilot and apparently some kid working at the airport had filled the gas tank with water instead of gas. Hard to believe, huh? Small town. Small airport. 1943. I guess it could happen.
So for me, growing up in the city, she instilled the love of riding a bike. We lived a pretty hardscrabble life, but somehow she found the money to help put me through college and then ten years later she put herself through college, meanwhile adopting a baby out of an orphanage in Tijuana. Single women in the 1960's had a hard time adopting a child on this side of the border.
But the first big expense I remember was my shiny red Schwinn bike. With that bike, mom taught me that persistence and hard work always paid off. There wasn't money to buy training wheels for that bike. I'd like to say I had to learn the hard way, riding it by myself, but the black and white picture at the top of this blog of me riding that bike doesn't show the back end of the bike. The truth is my mom was there, running down the street right behind me, keeping me upright, steering me in the right direction, giving me the support I needed to move forward. Yeah, she kept on doing that as I was growing up.
Okay, I'm getting a little misty here as I write this. I guess I've needed to write this down for some time. Time to lighten up a little bit. Mom also had a great sense of humor. That lives on in her son, too. In case you missed last month's blog piece, When Bears Talk, it's still posted here. It's a four minute animation script I wrote to promote our annual Christmas concert at our church. Check it out, the early reviews are already in. Mark said it was "Comedy Genius". Max said it was "Golden Globe" material. Heather said it was "Riveting". Cathy and Gina both agreed it was "Hilarious". Dave said it had "Oscar Potential" (Animated Short). Andria said it was "Awesome, Too Funny". John said it was "Not Boring". (You'll have to watch it to understand that last review!)
Mom passed away after her second bout with cancer in 1990 at the way too young age of 62. I'm 62 now. Below are a few pictures of my hero. You can see her halo in one of them.
Mom and I in 1948 in El Paso, Texas. That love you see in her face . . .
it was was always there throughout my life.
(I'm thinkin' those are my diapers on the clothesline!)
Our tiny family, Thanksgiving, 1952
Mom and me by a camel at the San Diego Zoo on my birthday, 1954
Mom at work at San Diego State University, 1975
The women in my life on my grandmother's 75th birthday in 1979
L-R: My Mom, My Nana, My new bride Reina,
My adopted sister, Jodee (being tickled by Reina)
Mom and her first grandchild, Gina, 1982