Who inspired me? As corny as it sounds, my parents did. I did not always realize or appreciate their experience and wisdom when I was younger. Now that I no longer have them around, and as I’ve grown older and (I hope) wiser, I am realizing what an impact their life’s experiences have had on my own life and how it’s shaped who I am today.
My parents both came from broken homes..something almost unheard of in the 1930’s. They were married almost 50 years. Neither finished high school although my dad got his GED in the military. My father grew up dirt poor pretty much raising himself in a little Texas town. At the age of 16 he hopped a freight train with his brother and followed my vagabond grandfather out to work in the Oakland shipyards. When he was 17, he enlisted in the Marines and became a Marine Raider, part of a Special Forces unit during WWII. He fought in all the major Pacific campaigns. When he came home, he applied for a job everywhere he could and was accepted by the City of Santa Rosa as a firefighter. He worked as a firefighter for 34 years, sometimes taking on other jobs on his days off. He paved streets, built houses and even found time to teach night school at the local junior college. He eventually worked himself up to Assistant Chief. He never once complained about his lot in life. Not ever, even after arthritis crippled his body so badly he could no longer get around. He just made the best of things, worked hard and as a result, earned respect from his peers as well as from me.
My mom was widowed at 17, her husband a casualty of World War II. A vagabond of sorts, she traveled to California where she eventually met and married my dad. She worked outside the home until I was about 4, then became a typical ”stay at home” mom. She taught me how to sing “You are My Sunshine” and how to budget, cook, sew, to behave properly and to accept what is given me and to be grateful for it. My mom made us feel rich even when we weren’t. We always had a full and rich Christmas and fun birthday parties. She made all our clothes including all my prom dresses as well as my wedding dress and baby clothes once I started having children. She made doll clothes, refinished furniture, recycled before it was fashionable and made sure we said our prayers every night. She collected books and was an avid reader. She also loved Opera.
My parents both taught me never to take anything for granted, to be kind, to work hard, and to be thankful for what I have rather than always wanting what I can’t. I will be forever grateful to them for all they gave me and for making me the person I am today.