Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
We all have heroes at different points in our lives. Some of them are make-believe heroes, like the ones we see in the movies. Others are real life heroes.
The real life heroes are the ones that have the biggest impact on our lives. We see certain qualities in these people that we want to incorporate into our own lives.
Those traits may be fearlessness, selflessness, wisdom or compassion.
My hero has all of those qualities wrapped into one person. My hero is my mother.
My mother is the strongest person I know — and probably ever will know.
This is a woman who raised two children essentially on her own with no help and little support.
I was 7 and my sister was not even a year old when my stepfather suddenly walked out on us.
I remember him bursting in the door that spring day, packing up a few things and tossing them into the car.
He came back in the house, rummaged through a cabinet and grabbed his toolbox. He turned to me and said, “A man can’t live without his toolbox.”
Funny the things you remember.
From that moment on, we were on our own.
Looking back, I can see what a tremendous struggle that must have been for my mother. She was a part-time nurse faced with raising two young children all on her own.
I know along the way we got some government help.
At the time, I didn’t realize that not everyone had to sort food from other items when checking out at the grocery store. This was so you could pay for your food with food stamps.
I joke with people that it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that baked beans were a side dish. That was a common main course for dinner during my childhood.
It wasn’t uncommon to eat just a bowl of oatmeal for dinner.
You often hear people say, “Growing up, we didn’t know we were poor.” I can honestly say that, in my case, that was definitely the truth.
My sister and I knew we were not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but we sure didn’t know how poor we were either.
During that time in the late 1970s, Mom was able to get into a job training program, and eventually landed a secretarial job with the state of Vermont, eventually retiring after more than 20 years of service.
Mom was always giving of herself. I can’t say as I ever remember an instance where she put her wants and needs ahead of ours. My sister and I always got what we needed.
I’m sure Mom went without many a time, but she never said a word to us about it. It’s in my mother’s heart to give.
When my grandfather — her father — became ill and his health deteriorated, she did all she could to help him. She took care of some of his medical needs that a child should not have to do for their parents.
She was by his side daily, making sure he got the care he needed, right up to the moment he passed away.
I call or text my mother often, usually for no particular reason other than just to say “hi” and catch up with her.
I try to remind her that now, after all these years, the time is overdue for her to start thinking of herself sometimes.
She has given and given all her life. She has earned the right to some rest and relaxation.
She always tells me she’s fine, and she moves onto whatever needs her attention next.
I don’t think I could ever live up to the selfless example she has set, but I have learned some good lessons from her.
The example given to me by my mother has helped me become a better father to my own children. A real hero gives you something you can pass along. In doing that, my mother is a true hero.