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Jeff Rubin: A Mother’s Day story to say ‘have a happy one’ to all Moms as we learn to appreciate wisdom

I always felt loved by my mom. I never doubted it for a minute. Her wisdom, on the other hand, was something I didn’t learn to appreciate until much later in life.

Happily married for 46 years, my mother was a woman of her time. Yet in many ways as I came to understand, she was way ahead of her time.

I was the youngest in a household of three boys. Mom always reminded us that she loved each of her children equally. It was a statement that was tested repeatedly over the years given our sibling rivalries.

Like mothers of every generation, mom wanted the best for her children. Even on the most modest of budgets, she was determined to make sure we never were without the necessities of life. As I later learned, we, like most of the families in our neighborhood, “grew up poor, and didn’t even know it.”

It was the mid 1950’s. I was in grade school, most of my friends’ moms took care of the household, and my mother sought her first paying job to supplement the family income.

As the baby of the family, having a working mom didn’t seem all that different.

She made my lunch and saw me to off to school in the morning. Mom still did the laundry, balanced the household checkbook, made the family meals before there were words like “microwave” and “minute rice,” read bedtime stories to me and my brothers, and helped us with our homework.

Illustration from Wikimedia

How she managed to accomplish these tasks while holding down a full-time job never dawned on me; and even if it did, it was beyond my comprehension. Little did I know that mom would be embarking on a retail sales career that lasted almost 30 years.

She started out as a “salesgirl” (a term popularly used to describe women’s work in retail at the time) in one of our town’s local dress shops. Mom had a keen mind, a fine sense of fashion and proved to be a natural born saleswoman. Mom had a ready smile, engaging manner, and pleasant disposition. In time mom was asked to take on added responsibilities. She became a merchandizer, marketer, window dresser, and ultimately store manager. Each position she held was self-taught.

What mom loved most however, was helping her customers find the right clothes, fit, and style for them. By the time she retired, mom figured she had probably outfitted half the mothers, daughters, and granddaughters in town.

In another time or another place, I have no doubt mom would have been a modern-day business success. However, mom was way too modest to take credit for what she’d accomplished.

“Work,” she said, “was its own reward.” It gave her joy and a sense of purpose outside of home. Mom’s focus, as I saw it, was spread evenly among her family, her customers, and her friends.

Mom was also a worrier, something she did more and more of that after my dad passed away. Like most moms I suppose, she worried about her children and grandchildren. She also worried whether she would become a “burden” to others as she grew older.

Mom and I had many a conversation about this. My objective was to convince her to focus less upon the “what ifs,” and more on the positives in her life. Mom, on the other hand, was equally as convinced that “a mother’s job was to worry 24 hours a day.”

To which I was quick to reply, “that may be so, but it was really okay to take an hour off every once in a while.” I came to realize, however, that worry for her was an outlet for what she valued most in life; being able to be there for others.

There are many attributes that could be used to describe my mom. She was proud, stubborn, determined, independent, loving, compassionate, loyal, and a valued and trusted friend. They were assets and liabilities that drove my mom, made her the person I remember, and certainly impacted me.

My Mom passed away in 2001 at the age of 86. Not a day has gone by since that I don’t continue to feel her presence in my life.

The older I get, the more I’ve come to appreciate the uniqueness of my mom and the wisdom she had to share. Age has also helped me to realize how special we all are and how each of us serves to influence another.

So, here’s to you Jennie Rose and to all the mom’s past and present who love, worry, and care about their children.

Happy Mother’s Day to you all.

Jeff Rubin is a consultant on community and aging issues, the author of Wisdom of  Age, and a recent honoree of the Maria Shriver “Architect of Change of the Week” Award. Having spent over 20 years as a director and facilitator of community service programs at the local, state and national levels, he is today an advocate for “Age-friendly” and “Livable” communities, Mr. Rubin is currently working to advance positive aging in Kentucky and worldwide. He invites your comments, involvement, and support. Jeff can be reached at jeff@wisdomofage.net.

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