On the Upbeat, Positively Carolan

Strongest Woman Ever

My mother was a busy, bustling, talkative woman who married her high school sweetheart and lived to celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary. The strongest woman I have ever known. Got goose-bumps at the National Anthem and tears in her eyes at America the Beautiful but damned if she’d ever admit it.

And she underwent 2 hip replacements, a shoulder replacement, other major surgeries and a stubborn uti that weakened her system, triggering a stroke and then a coronary that ended her life. But through it all somehow she just didn’t believe in illness. Indeed, she was way ahead of her time in awareness of the mind-body connection.

As when at 12 or 13, I came to breakfast saying I needed to stay home as I wasn’t feeling well and she fired back, “What happened at school yesterday?”

Or when she never told me she had a major surgical procedure scheduled and I only found out after the fact. That time I actually phoned every hospital in town to find her. And then – since she apparently didn’t want me there – I had flowers delivered to her, with a card that read, “Thought you fooled me, hmh?”

My mother had so many strengths:

  • Worked during WW II as a timekeeper at one of Portland’s seven shipyards – my dad was a welder.
  • Taught herself to type as an adult and when I left for college assumed her first office job, taking over for me at a small television store.
  • A whiz at math, she could run an amortization schedule without benefit of a calculator. She could have run her own business and, believe me, her math ability came in handy when non-numerical me was trying to sell residential real estate.
  • Every year till past 70 she did the u-pick routine to make glorious strawberry jam. And at such an age she even posted the adamantly “pro choice” sticker on the front door for all to see!

Whew, no wonder I’m a risk-taker with some fierce attitudes … but lately I find myself realizing the complications in being raised by such a tough woman, together with a mellow artistic square-dance-caller dad. Indeed, I’m discovering that I’m a complex amalgam of both, although her perennial scoldings — don’t cry, be strong, don’t lean, stand on your own feet – ran me for years.

For sure I’ve tried my hand at (mostly failed) business ventures, and I bottled up lots of stress. But now I’m letting emotionality loose — crying copiously in movies or over friendships or sunsets or ANYthing that moves me. And reaching out, asking for help when needed, finding the joy in unleashing my multifaceted self — brimming with creativity, sensuality and passions for music, photography, travel, love.


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