At a work meeting recently, I was given a get-to-know-you, icebreaker question: “Who do you most admire?”
Without hesitation, I knew my answer would be my mother. When I was asked to talk a little about my mom and why I chose her, I found that expanding on it was a bit more difficult to put into words.
My mother didn’t have to overcome impossible obstacles, nor does she have an astonishing success story. Despite that, she is still my hero.
Because of my mother, I became one of the first people in my family to attend college. I learned the value of the dollar at an early age. My mother instilled practical life skills within me. She never sugar-coated life, but she always believed in me.
From an early age, I knew my family was different than most.
First off, I was an accident. My mother and father had both been married and divorced before they met each other.
My father, who was more than 20 years older than my mom, had five kids from his first marriage. My mother had one other child, my brother, who is 12 years older than me.
My parents found out my mom was pregnant with me before they got married. In fact, I was the only guest at their wedding. I’m told I was just learning to walk and kept falling on the church’s hardwood floors.
My family never had very much money. As a child, I never knew quite how poor we were.
All I knew was I never upgraded from a Super Nintendo. even though most of my friends were getting Nintendo 64s and PlayStations. I knew most of my clothes came from garage sales and Walmart.
I didn’t know until adulthood that, when I was young, it had gotten so bad we’d lost electricity at one point.
When I was a baby, we even lived with my adult half-sister and her family for a time.
Our money problems stemmed from my father’s inability to keep a steady job. My father was an excellent handyman and a great mechanic.
He had the type of mind that could figure out how to fix pretty much anything.
For most of my childhood, he worked for himself by purchasing wrecked cars and fixing them up to sell at a profit.
Unfortunately, my father would have rather watched television or talked to his friends than make us money.
He never wanted my mother to work, and even if she did, we probably wouldn’t have benefitted from it if they’d had to pay for childcare or a babysitter all the time.
I won’t get into details with my father’s other issues, but dishonesty, gossip and borderline verbal abuse were among them.
My parents started arguing more, and my father even had my mother get on anti-depressants because he was convinced she was the problem.
He became increasingly difficult to live with, and my mother slowly planned our escape.
When I was 12, we packed up and moved to Ohio to live with my grandparents.
My mother, seeing our lives had come to a standstill and my father would never change, had the guts to get out of a bad situation and find us a better one.
Things weren’t immediately smooth sailing. We lived with my grandparents for what was probably the longest few months of my life.
I lost my old friends and I started a new school in the middle of my sixth grade year. There were a lot of tears and a lot of long nights.
I probably wasn’t always understanding and thankful to my mother through all of it, but that transitional time was ultimately just the rocky beginning of a new, better life.
We eventually started a new life in Virginia. My mother remarried a great, hard-working man who treats us well and provides for us in ways my biological father never could.
My household no longer feels hostile and unhappy.
They have since retired to a cabin in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, just like they’ve wanted for years.
I owe all of my accomplishments to my mother. She never set unrealistic expectations, but she pushed me to do my best.
She taught me how to work for what I want, rather than expect it for free.
I learned that considering the long-term outcome over the short-term is important in decision-making.
Most importantly, and through her own life choices, she taught me the importance of standing up and doing what is best for me.
I am a happy, mostly well-adjusted adult, and I’m thankful to my mother every day for making that happen.
She may not be an obvious hero, but she is mine.