This is my mother (and me).
This is my mother (and me).
When Mom was 14, her father took her on a trip through Russia, although nobody from the US was visiting Russia then, especially not 14-year old girls.
In high-school, she decided she wanted to become a spy. Everybody told her that girls couldn’t do that. So, when she went to college, she studied Russian and Mandarin. Then she snagged an interview with a guy who could help her get a job as a spy. He sexually harassed her and, when she protested, told her that’s what women had to put up with if they wanted to become spies.
Instead, she got married, moved as far away as she could, raised three daughters and a whole lot of orchids. She let us bring home dogs, innumerable cats, horses, geese, once even a goat. She painted the house inside and out, designed and built furniture for the house, laid bricks in the backyard, and built her own greenhouse.
When I was in junior high, she started traveling with her parents again. They went to China, Nepal, and Australia. Then she came home, got divorced, declared bankruptcy, and bought a copper-colored Porsche convertible to match her hair.
By the time my youngest sister graduated from high school, she had earned her pilot’s license and twin degrees in computer science and accounting – although, in those days, everyone knew that women couldn’t code.
After building her dream house (which she wired herself), she moved to DC, got a job with the GAO, and took off for the Thailand office. And then Ethiopia. Then Paris. And left a trail of broken hearts behind her, although women her age didn’t do those things.
When she retired, she traveled to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan. 9/11 found her in Egypt, where she fell in love and married a man younger than me. She brought him home with her, took over a small house-painting business, and started rehabbing rental houses.
After her second divorce and a scary medical report, Mom moved closer to her grandchildren, bought a cottage and gut remodeled it, staining all the woodwork by hand. Nobody dared tell her that someone at her age was supposed to sit in a rocking chair.
She was planning a trip to Machu Picchu when her lungs began deteriorating. Finally, the doctors told her she had less than 6 months to live and recommended hospice.
18 months later some bureaucrat kicked her off hospice because she wasn’t dying fast enough.
Since then, she’s been in and out of the hospital, surprising doctors again and again. The caregivers, the nurses, the doctors – everyone tells us how sweet she was, how nice.
We just smile.
In May, Mom caught a cold that turned into bronchitis then pneumonia. This morning she decided it was time for her next “awfully big adventure.”
When I was a young manager, one of my friends at work used to call me in tears again and again because, just as the meeting got interesting, the asshole engineers she worked with used to send her out of the room to make coffee. I couldn’t figure out why she let them do that and I kept advising her: Just tell them you forgot how.
When I went away to school, guidance counselors and mom and dad’s families thought I was crazy to go to NYC and study drama; I’ve been here since then. Throughout my career, VPs I worked with told me time after time that I couldn’t accomplish my ideas; I proved them wrong. When I graduated from that company, they called it retirement and gifted me slippers and a bed-tray, which I threw in the trash on the way to my next job at a start-up.
When I decided to go on vacation to Antarctica, my husband asked if we could go to Hawaii. He can’t wait to go back to Antarctica.
Grrrls, if someone tells you that you can’t do something, honor Mom’s legacy:
Prove. Them. Wrong.
Life’s too short to get stuck brewing coffee.