Friday, January 7, 2011

Pictures Of My Hero

Yesterday I rode my bike out to our church to ask a question about the Children's Ministry. When I pulled open the main door our Worship Pastor, Steve, put a video camera in my face and asked me who my hero was. Standing there with my helmet on and my bike in hand, I answered without any hesitation. (I think if there's any hesitation involved it may be later on when the pastors are contemplating which 'video interviews' to cut from the upcoming message series on Heroes. The thought of putting me up on two 10' by 10' screens wearing that much spandex is downright scary. Probably just as well that I end up on the 'cutting room floor'.)

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


  1. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing! I had no idea life had been so tricky for you starting out. What an amazing gift you have been to so many people!

  2. I'm so glad that you've written this down, Dad. I learned a lot about Grandma that I didn't know. Wonderful!

  3. I first met Ron's mom as a senior in high school. He and I spent a couple of hours in his room over in Allied Gardens organizing our case for the "opposition" side of a panel discussion on the war in Vietnam for our world affairs class.

    I liked Nadine from the start. She was just plain nice -- pretty much in the mold of the archetypal mothers we'd watched for years on the tube (Betty, Donna, June, etc.).

    I interrupted my studies at San Diego State twice -- spending one year at another school -- and, like most students, I changed majors once or twice. But with Nadine's help, I managed to graduate in four years plus one semester -- I don't know if she pulled any strings for me; but I know she arranged to be my evaluator and that I did receive tender loving care.

    Ron and I have been separated by distance for most of our friendship -- now nearly 45 years in length -- and I didn't get to see much of Nadine over those years. But I saw more than enough to be able to confirm Ron's conclusions about where his values and character came from.

    Now that I think about it, Ron's mom is also one of MY heroes!

    Nice tribute to a nice person, my friend.

  4. What an awesome tribute to your Mom. I have a great big lump in my throat because I can relate in so many ways. Raised by a single Mom - who rocks by the way - and being a single mom myself. I made it with the help and grace of a loving and forgiving God! Thank you always for sharing your stories. You are a true testiment! I love you!

  5. I've been blessed to read this blog. Thank you, Ron so much. Reading these blogs is better than reading the newspaper.

  6. Ron Bolles said . . . Wow. So many comments on this piece. Must have touched some heartstrings. Thank you all for your kind thoughts and comments!

    Cristina Rivera said ... RON, what a GREAT STORY. As I scrolled down to read I was thinking, "Man! I want to see pictures!" You came through and made the story all the better. I can't believe your mom, so strong!! What a great woman!!! Thank you for sharing that. REALLY.

    Mary Follett Fisher said ... Absolutely precious.

    Delia Esquivel-Pearsons said ... Now we know why "you are all heart".....beautiful story!

    Suzanne Lewis said ... My mom has always been my hero. She passed away 9 years ago and is in my thoughts every day.

    Marshalee said ... This is very nice.

    Cathy Stephenson said ... Ron, What a wonderful story about your mother. I remember her well and can understand why she is your hero.

    Pastor Russ said ... Thanks for taking the time to send this to me Ron. I’m forwarding it on the Pastor Steve to see how we might be able to use it. I never realized how much Heather looks like Reina in the picture with your mom. Very cool.

    Ginny Rauch said ... Oh my, Ron. That was absolutely riveting to say the very least. The mountain wasn’t too high for your mom or for you. You should write more about this!! You’re a wonderful writer and I’m sure this was only a tiny bit of the story.

    Eamonn O'Mahony said ... Wow. Its amazing how much we don't know about the people in our lives. Thanks for writing this!

    Eileen Lightbody said ... What a touching story celebrating your mom's life and her impact on you.

    Ignacio Fernandez said ... Really great story about your mom. My hero is my dad, all that he sacrificed to make a better life for us kids.

    Jill Lobe said ... I LOVED this story!!! Your mom was so kind and understanding. I remember how sweet she was to me in Europe……..Your mom would have loved this story!!!

    Andria Elam said ... This was really beautiful and I enjoyed seeing the photos. I never knew some of those things about you...It was really cool learning some of your history.