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The Matriarch

Some of you already know the magic that is my mother...and those who don't have probably imagined there must exist a woman with either the resolve of a saint, the strength of a warrior or the mind of a lunatic, that was responsible for birthing and raising me. (and my 4 equally disturbed and quirky siblings) During the course of my existence it was necessary for her to summon ALL 3 of those personas in order to cope with what she and my father were responsible for creating.

Like many of us, my mom started her adult life very young. Married at the age of 16, first child 10 months later at the age of 17, and 4 more to follow over the next 15 years. Through all the chaos and pandemonium of raising 5 kids, I can honestly say I never heard my mom use foul language or even appear exasperated. This alone qualifies her for Sainthood because it fulfills the requirement of performing a miracle during her lifetime. Maybe my siblings can refute that memory, but I only remember her as calm and caring. (with the exception of a few tirades that we like to tease her about as she took out her frustrations on inanimate objects like a power washer or a spool of elastic at the Wal-Mart craft counter. Next time you’re there, look for her “wanted” poster at the entrance...a very flattering picture of mom that is captioned “approach with caution”)

As you can tell, I like to highlight the humorous side of my mother. We have an ongoing joke about a “list” we’re compiling to expedite her admittance into an "old folks home". Every time she does something comical (like loads her purchases into the wrong car in a store parking lot and doesn’t realize it until the car’s rightful owner stops her... mounts a campaign of injustice because she thinks the hot dog stand shorted her a weenie only to realize she dropped it and was sitting on it the whole time... or busts the entire toilet tank trying to replace just the handle because she possesses Herculean strength...or causes her salad spinner to spew lettuce within a 1 mile radius because she's a bit overzealous on her quest to clean produce) we tell her these things are “going on the list” and then pretend to document them with legitimate terminology...(“unable to recognize her surroundings and her property...resorting to cantankerous and combative behavior at mealtime...and using excessive force and domination tactics for ordinary household chores”).

My mom is quite the character and although I don’t need reminded of how wonderful she is, I get confirmation of it very often from friends (mine AND hers) and total strangers alike. People have asked to be adopted into our family because of her and others have asked if they could simply borrow her. They remark on her energy, her spunk, her humor and killer Zumba skills...all admirable attributes but only scratches on the surface of an amazing woman I call Mom and others call Joan.

From a young age I can recall many of my mother’s examples of benevolence and humility. One particular case that stands out to me is how she befriended an elderly woman named Ellen, who she met while working as a nurse’s aid for a local agency. My mom was assigned to providing home care for Ellen’s ailing sister, Dollie. The assignment eventually ended when Dollie passed away. Ellen was then left living alone...vulnerable, elderly and legally blind. Completely unrelated to her job and without compensation of any kind, my mom befriended Ellen and essentially became her guardian angel….checking in on her, taking her to appointments and doing her shopping...for the remainder of Ellen’s life. I remember Ellen would call our house daily, sometimes more than once, to talk to our mom. As self absorbed teenagers (and in the days before cell phones and call waiting) we would get annoyed when answering the phone and realizing it was Ellen calling again and not someone in our social circle. Now when I think back to that time, it was endearing. I can’t remember the name of the boy I hoped was calling me, but I can remember Ellen in her little old lady voice saying, "Joanie" to whomever would answer her call. It didn't matter which of us siblings answered the phone, Ellen always assumed it was her "Joanie". No matter how often Ellen called, nor what her request, my mom never seemed bothered and carried on a dedication to Ellen until she too passed away.

This was just one of MANY examples portrayed by my mother’s pure heart and it is still pumping just as strongly today. She helps more people than I could possibly mention, from great grandkids to her own elderly aunts and every generation in between. She babysits the young ones and takes out trash, runs errands for or transports the older ones. She lavishes children with birthday gifts as well as gets down on her hands and knees to play “horsey” with them. She is a true gem and everyone who knows her adores her.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m very proud of my mom, as are my siblings. I speak for all of them when I express my adoration of her. I know at times she struggles with feeling inadequate in regards to technology and modern lifestyles (and truly I’m surprised her cell phone and computer haven’t met the same fate as that power washer that she launched from the deck when it wouldn’t cooperate) and yet she possesses something far more relevant….a kind, gentle, fun-loving, nurturing and charitable spirit...true beauty...and she fosters the same in everyone she meets.