I believe in perseverance.
It is interesting to me at age 58 how I spent the first half of my life struggling so mightily with my mother, who died in 1980, and the second half gradually realizing that I have been completely shaped by her core values.
She was a depression baby, the youngest of five children of a widowed mother who eked out a hardscrabble, sharecropping existence on the plains of South Texas. In the war, the sisters all went to Corpus Christi, a hundred miles north of the Mexican border on the Gulf Coast, where defense industries were booming and most of the men were gone off to Europe and the Pacific. My mother had been in a car accident at 17 that left one leg an inch shorter than the other. At five feet nine inches she was very self concious and shy. Of course she found a ridiculous, romantic, alcoholic to marry who was fourteen years older and had certainly never even begun to grow up. He helped educate her in the ways of the world and left her embittered with two sons and a bookkeeping certificate she had acquired with the settlement money from the accident.
I was the oldest and spent my childhood hiding, figuratively and sometimes literally, from the world. I also spent it battling my mother. Our natures were so similar that we naturally engaged one another. She struggled to feed my brother and I and to somehow be both mother and father to us while providing shelter for her own mother, a woman shaped by the depression and widowhood who could not sign her own name to a pension check.
I knew I wanted to be a man and that I was surrounded by women. I took my absent fathers side instinctively and out of a combative nature inherited, ironically, from my mother. But it was that combative nature that ended up as the number one survival characteristic she imparted to me. It kept me going through my own alcoholism, two bouts with cancer, and, eventually, some peace. It’s a peace my mother never found. She finished struggling, in a coma but still with a determined look on her face. It was more than a determined look. It had no quit in it at all. Never vanquished. In her own way indestructible. This is how I remember her and I thank her for this most of all. I’m glad she never gave up. But I hope she is no longer struggling.
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