I believe that Love and Parenting require sacrificing one’s self.
My mom felt that our neighborhood schools were substandard. She knew this because she went there. The students got involved with drugs and alcohol and had a lack of hope. See, she did not finish the 10th grade, got married at 16, by divorced at 18 and had me at 19. So she did not want me or my brother stepping into those schools. The problem was that being a single mom she did not have the means to move to a neighborhood with better schools. She made the decision to put us into private schools no matter what the cost.
As I grew older, I began to realize the price my mom was paying for my education. She started coming home with blood stained tape around the tips of her fingers. My mom worked in a microwave factory where she worked with tiny sharp wires that sliced her fingers open. I could see her pain as she pulled the tape off her fingers leaving the skin cracked open. There were times that she worked 15 hour days to make extra money. She did not use this money to buy better clothes or a new car for herself. These hours and her blood literally paid for my education.
At about the age of 12, I fully realized my responsibility. If I failed, her life and sacrifices meant nothing and were in vain. I had been playing baseball since the age of 7. I was getting very good and was invited to play on a competitive travel team. I knew this was my chance. I could get a college scholarship and make my mom proud. Every time I played, her smile seemed to wash away her pain and troubles. My team, the Tigers, won the World Series.
As a freshman, my high school coach started me every game and even moved me up to the older team towards the end of the year to get some experience. Things were right on track and looking great. However, I had to make a decision. Should I continue to play for the Tigers and travel to big tournaments all summer or stay in Memphis and play for my high school coach. I decided to go with the Tigers for the experience. Then came a situation that I will never understand.
After having a great summer, I rejoined my high school team the next spring, I found myself on the bench for the first couple of games. About halfway through the season, I realized that my coach was punishing me for not playing on his summer team. He did not like the other organization. I was devastated. I went from starting every game to sitting out just about every game. I told my mom that I had to transfer. After talking to several people, my mom told me, “You belong at that school and you will be on a better path for success than if you transfer.” However, the damage to my confidence was done. For the rest of that year, my grades and my game suffered. There were many times when she would come home and I was so depressed that we would just sit and cry. But, I was determined not to let my mom down. I did finish high school and I used grants and loans to get a degree in Engineering. After college, I married the woman of my dreams, become an Air Force Officer and had my own kids.
Today, I teach math and coach softball. Recently, I was with my 8th grade students on a tour of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans and Loyola College Prep to help transition them to high school. As we stood there listening, the Priest explained the carving of the Pelican on the altar as a symbol of the Eucharist. He said, “According to legend the Pelican feeds her young with her own blood when she has no food to provide them by plucking her breast.” At that moment, I remembered my mom’s finger and the blood stained tape. My mom had sacrificed herself just like the Pelican so that I could enjoy a better life.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.