A Mom In Full

Dear Michael and Caroline,

She always knows.

Mom knew how to get us through your being in the hospital as a little girl. She knew how to deal with the teachers and the principals to pull you through school. She knew how to take care of all your stomachaches.

She knows how to take care of pretty much anything, even me.

She’s always cooked the food and cleaned the clothes for all of us. She’s kept the books and paid the bills. She even painted the walls of our bedroom, sponge-style, complete with perfect wallpaper trim.

She always knows what to do and how to do it. When we had troubles, she knew how to handle it. It made no difference what cropped up.

My grandparents the Shefts failed to disguise the displeasure they felt on hearing I was going to marry her. My father once gave me money, saying I had no obligation to repay him, only for my mother then to demand I pay it back. It bothered Mom, but she kept her cool.

She always knew how, almost as if she were born an adult. We had so many worries over the years, so many struggles, but she somehow kept herself together and took care of it, never complaining, never feeling sorry for herself, never making me feel anything toward her but pride.

And it’s all because she always knows – knows how to say what has to be said, how to do what has to be done. In that sense, she’s one in a million. In that sense, too, she’s almost my exact opposite.

I almost never know. I almost never knew before, and seldom know now, what to say, how to act, about anything really. Some people have the gift of common sense, an internal compass that guides decisions, leads to good judgment, and she has it in spades.

It’s among the reasons I’ve always respected her and trusted her and relied on her and certainly loved her.

Without her help, without her practicality and advice and loyalty, I shudder to imagine what might have become of me. It’s a tricky project, trying to express everything she means to me, this special woman, this soulmate, this angel from heaven, this Elvira. But let me try here and now. Let me get it all into one sentence.

I owe my life to her.


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