She was once a little girl. A daughter, a child. She had hopes and dreams. She knew laughter and fun. She also had hard times, worries, fears and tears. She was born in an old-fashioned era and knew hardship and lack. Yet she pressed on and fought the good fight in her life. She's my mother, Eileen, and I'd like to tell you a little about her.
Mom had been such a stable even though she had her own adversities. A child of an alcoholic father, Mom grew up with fear as a constant companion. A father who would gamble away the last of the grocery money, a father who was unkind to his wife. And that wife, who took out on her children what she could not on the man she married. Little Eileen wanted so much more. She wanted to play piano, sing, soar. But tough times didn't permit her dreams to come true.
She married young, at nineteen years of age to my father, Richard, a man six years her senior. A good man, a loving man, someone who stood by her through good times and bad. Though nervous issues plagued my mother for many years, she found stability and tenderness. She fought her way through these times, these confusing times when the mind would play tricks on her, threatening to tear her apart. And she would come out on the other side stronger and better for it, with a heart so filled with compassion for others, that many lives would be touched by her.
A pregnancy came in later years after Mom lost two other babies. A doctor warned her to terminate the baby due to health concerns. But this strong woman, my mother, said words that have stuck with me all my life: "I'll have this baby, or die trying." And nine months later, my brother was born, a true blessing in our lives.
Mom ran several antique businesses through the years, enjoying the challenges they brought. But her biggest accomplishment to many of us was owning a small mom and pop store in our little town of Ambridge, Pa. The Eighth Street Dairy was a quick stop for kids after their long school days. A place to play a video game in the early 80's, and purchase bags full of penny candy, Swedish fish, gummy bears, gum balls. Nothing was more important to her, however, than her daily talks with the people and kids that walked through her door.
Some folks came daily for a newspaper and cup of coffee. They'd share stories with Mom of their lives and problems. Like a therapist, my mother would listen and occasionally give advice. And as for the children who came through the door after school hours, Mom would have a listening ear and
Years later, many of the young people, now grown, would approach Mom if they'd see her somewhere. They'd tell her just how much she meant to them in those earlier years, the time she spent talking with them. A few have told how their lives have changed from knowing her. One man said, "If it wasn't for you, I don't know where I'd be. Every time I thought about getting into trouble, I'd think of you, and just stop what I was doing."
As for me, I think back to a lady who stood by me in one of the darkest times of my life: my spinal surgery for scoliosis as a teen. I don't know how Mom was able to keep her strength as she watched me go through such a difficult time in Children's Hospital. How she kept my spirits up and told me it would pass.
I've gotten my heart from my mother. My sense of humor. I've gotten a love of movies, books, and imagination from her, a spirit of creativity. I've gotten compassion, a love of animals and underdogs of the world. I've learned about faith and God from Mom.
I think my mother didn't realize just how many lives she impacted. And when her golden years came upon her, I reminded her: The world is a better place because of you, Mom. So many of us wouldn't be who we are without having known you.
Here's to Mother's Day, and the blessing, the great blessing my mother was to me. Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you with my whole heart.