My mother was a lot of things: funny, smart, fiercely independent, assertive, outspoken, infuriating, domineering, tough as nails, and stubborn as Hell. In fact, she was so tough that I am still mildly surprised, over a year later, when I realize she is dead; because if anybody could have cheated death, it undoubtedly would have been my mother. After all, she had survived several other cancers (breast, uterine, bladder & skin) before leukemia finally took her out after a prolonged battle.
I was her only child, born when she was 40. Ours was never an easy relationship. I was her polar opposite in every way imaginable, so much so that I spent my childhood convinced there must have been some bizarre mix-up at the hospital where I was born.
She was extremely extroverted, charming everyone in her wake, while I am extraordinarily introverted, preferring books to parties. She loved a good fight and would charge into any battle like Xena on steroids at the drop of a hat; while I am calm, quiet, and peace-loving. She was a no-nonsense Marine intent on order and control; while I am a four-leaf-clover-picking, art-making, animal-loving daydreamer.
She was not a natural-born nurturer, typically telling me to “toughen up” rather than kissing my boo-boos. She ran a tight ship, and my father and I knew who was boss. I still view her, even in death, with an odd mixture of fear and admiration.
Even though she often avoided the traditional trappings of motherhood, she had a very strong protective instinct. Once, when I was 3, we were in a small country store and I was standing alone while my mother chatted with a woman she knew, a man offered me some candy (yikes!) and asked if I would like to see a new litter of puppies out back. Being shy, wary, and naturally reserved, I did not answer, not knowing what to do, and seeing my hesitation and taking advantage of it, he scooped me up quickly and started carrying me toward the door. I managed to squeak out “Mom!” as he carried me, and she moved so quickly that he never even had a chance to mount a defense. She grabbed me out of his arms, dropped me to the ground beside her, then punched him so hard right in the face that he flew backwards into the candy rack, landing unceremoniously amidst the very candy he had tried to lure me with.
Love her or hate her (and I still vacillate between the two, even after her death), there is no denying that Mom was someone to be reckoned with.
I love stories of strong women, and often spend hours scouring the internet for examples to post on Twitter, and while I was doing that this morning, it occurred to me that I already knew one; I just needed to write it down. So this post is dedicated to my mother.
Wherever she is now, I am sure she is running the place.