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Monday, January 14, 2013

MOM Pt 1


Do you understand your parents?

I surely didn't. Why did Mom say “NO” all the time? Why did Dad seem so unhappy? What was their life like growing up? Did they have big dreams?

Sadly, I knew very little.

I tried to understand a little about my biological father. A few years before he died, I called and we met for lunch. I wanted to find out more about him, as all I knew was, his superpower might have been invisibility. More than anything, I wanted to find out about other family and maybe some family health history.

What I discovered was far less about him and more about how I was better off without him. Maybe the Altzheimers was getting to him already but all I came out of that meeting with was how angry he was. Angry about things that had happened over 50 years ago. And, in the stories I have heard from others, his picture of the past was highly Inaccurate.

It wasn't a formal interview. It was not organized or recorded. It was good enough though. His story was not one I want to celebrate or promote. He was who he was and I'll just let that go.

Mom on the other hand, was still a mystery. Why was she like she was? What was on her mind? What did she think of her son? Why didn't I already know these things?

I had to find out.

I had to interview my Mom.

I won't claim to be a master of the personal interview. I have done it hundreds of times but mostly as a manager trying to see if I wanted to hire the person sitting across from me. This wasn't going to be like anything I've done before.

Mom and I have spent tens of thousands of hours together while I was growing up. She was a single parent more or less for my first 6 years. We had even spent many hours together when I was an adult. 7 weeks in Germany on one of those Once-in-a-Lifetime trips. Meeting family I hadn't seen since I was 2. Seeing where Mom grew up, hearing the stories of happiness, joy, and family, gave me some idea that, although she grew up poor in the wallet, they were rich in love. She is one of the most selfless people I know and I wanted to know how she got to be that way. Here are some of the answers I have uncovered this past year....

WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY?

“I was 5 or 6 and going to school for the first time. I was excited and proud that I was finally a 'Big Girl'”.

Mom was born into a family that had some wealth. They lived in an area in Germany that is now Poland. The second World War had started and they got word that they needed to leave quickly. Thinking they would return in a short time, her Mom and grandmother didn't take much. They ended up losing everything they left behind. Can you imagine starting over with 5 kids and a mother to take care of? While a war is going on? I can't...

Mom's Mom was named Hedwig. She resorted to begging for food to feed the kids. Mom's sisters could help a little but they were too young to really do much. Mom's Dad was in the military but not around much. After the war, he worked as often as he could but ultimately left the family to find a new career. He ended up finding a whole new family as well.

Mom remembers growing up in Mistfels and being surrounded by love and attention. She doesn't remember the struggle, the hunger, or the disappointment of not having things other people had. She was content with the few things she could call her own. She DOES still remember the trauma of her Dad leaving and how she had a special bond with one of the horses he took with him.

For a time, when she was around 8, she alone went to live in Switzerland with a family that could better take care of her. Mom went through a sickly period in her younger days, and her time spent away from her Mom and family, although hard to understand, was best for her. The family wanted to adopt her but after about a year, she returned to her siblings and the love that surrounded them.

It's easy to see how Mom became the person she ended up being. She didn't dream the big dream, didn't envy anyone, and appreciated what she had and how she got it. When you grow up with nothing but happiness and true affection, material things really don't have the same importance. It took me until my mid 30's to get THAT concept. Mom knew it at 5.

HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT LEAVING GERMANY AND YOUR FAMILY?
“Omi (German for “Grandmother”) and my sisters didn't like the idea, but Effe stood up for me and the others didn't butt in. I knew I would miss them but my husband was leaving and I knew I should be with him”

With the closeness of her family being what it was, leaving had to be tough. Mom had met the future Biological Father while he served in the military and they got married after a year together. She was so naive about boys that she admitted that she thought she could get pregnant just by kissing. When he was planning on returning home, it was expected she go with him. Mom's family did not want her to go off to a strange land, but Effe, the closest sibling and one who looked after Mom more than anyone, spoke out and made everyone understand that Mom needed to do what she wanted to do and they should support her. Pride kept her in the U.S after the divorce a few years later and Mom proudly got her citizenship while in her 50's.

It was funny to see Mom's reaction to my many interviews. She started looking forward to it, and tried to make some notes so that she could remember more details. It was a great feeling when her eyes lit up about some of the things she spoke about. There are many, many good times she has had in her life. Of course, there are many sad ones as well. Through it all, she has been strong, determined to succeed, and an example to me on numerous levels.

I'm proud to have a Mom who could come to this country without being able to speak the language and make a life for us that is rich and full of wonder. I am proud that she overcame discrimination and harsh treatment, yet doesn't complain about it. I am proud that she looks out for others, sometimes to the detriment of herself.

I am proud that she is happy with how her son turned out too.....

….to be continued

click [HERE] for Pt 2

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2 comments:

  1. I very much enjoyed your interview with your mother. She seems like a great women and I can see the love and admiration you have for her. As a young teenager I lost my mother and I felt that a part of me died with her. I lived with my father but he was a lousy provider and was never a father or mentor to my brother or me. I am very thankful and blessed to have had my mother as long as I did and remember the good and happy times with her. I am who I am because of her and hope to see her again someday...:

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  2. I very much enjoyed your interview with your mother. I can see the love and admiration you have for her. I lost my mother as a young teenager. I was so sad, lost, and felt like a part of me died with other. My father was a lousy provider, and didn't want to be a parent to my brother or me. I believe that if there is someone in our lives that has molded us into the person we have become, we need to be very thankful. I know if my mother was here today, she would be so proud of the woman I have become, and the obstacles I have overcome in my personal life and the success I have achieved in my professional life. I hope to see her again someday.

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