She was born Carol Ann Fenlon on October 18th, 1943 in Cheboygan, MI to proud parents Lucille & Mark Fenlon. Little Carol Ann joined big brother Ron and would eventually become big sister to Joyce and then Timothy.
So began the life of my mother.
Her story isn’t remarkable by what we consider remarkable these days: she’s not famous (or even pseudo famous in a Kardashian or Instagram kind of way), she was never CEO of a company or was a president’s wife.
And yet her story is remarkable because she is my mother and all mothers’ lives should be noted as remarkable.
Now that I am a mother myself, I realize how much she gave of her time, her love, her compassion, her understanding, her humor, all while asking for nothing in return. And I realize how I took all of that for granted.
Isn’t that how it goes? We don’t truly understand the impact of something while we’re in the midst of it. It’s typically only in hindsight that we look back and say, “OH. Yeah. Wow.”
I’m not sure but I also think that’s the definition of history.
Anywho. I never fully comprehended how awesome my mom (and my dad for that matter but this isn’t about him right now) was/is until I moved out of the house to attend college. That’s when the breathlessness of independence and the paralysis of homesickness collide to make certain you take stock of just how good you had it at home.
My mom will be 75 years young this October. She’s been married to my father for almost 58 years. That, too, is remarkable.
They’ve lived through “in sickness and in health”, “for better, for worse” several times over while the rest of us chumps gloat about 10 years of marriage on Facebook like we’re something to be applauded.
Those 58 years have encompassed the birth of 4 children, 8 grandchildren, 5 great grandchildren, one job loss, several surgeries, including my father’s surgery after his stroke, my mother’s bypass surgery and most recently surgery to remove part of her cancer-riddled colon.
So get out of here with your miserable 10 years of marriage and come back in about 50 years. Then you can applaud yourself.
But I digress.
My mother is amazing for so many reasons, on so many levels, that defy words or an explanation.
Don’t get me wrong, she has her faults, we all do, but hers seem to fade into the background like the ugly wallpaper in your grandparents’ bathroom that’s been there for so long you don’t even notice it anymore.
She’s a worrier who bears the family’s burdens on her shoulders all while telling others to “give it to God to handle”.
She has past hurts that she can’t quite let go of.
She worries too much about what others think of her.
She smoked cigarettes for many years which has caused the health issues she’s suffered later in life.
But the things that make her amazing outweigh and outshine any of her faults.
She’s the one who taught me how to laugh at myself.
She’s taught me how to love, nurture, and care for others.
She’s the one who taught me how to treat people, all people, with kindness and respect.
She’s taught me that a little lipstick and mascara really can make you feel better.
She’s taught me that not only is marriage hard work but that it's so rewarding and so worth it.
She’s taught me how to be strong. Not like a Wonder Woman I-can-lift-a-car-over-my-head strong. But a smoldering kind of strong that simmers and burns for 75 years and flares up at just the right times, when it's needed most.
My mother is a talker and a hugger. She truly has never met a stranger. I recall one time when she was visiting me, we went to a restaurant for lunch. Our waitress was in a foul mood and not very chatty at all. My mom looked at our waitress’s name tag which read “Brittany” and said to her, “Oh, Brittany. That’s a beautiful name.” This simple statement caused Brittany’s entire demeanor to change. Brittany smiled real big and said thank you to my mom. And from there the two of them proceeded to have a 5-minute conversation, about what, I don’t recall, but I do know it was as if they’d known each other for years.
I sat there in amazement at the way my mom elicited this complete 180 degree turn in the waitress’s mood.
My mom has never been the leader of a country but she sure could teach our current leaders about kindness and the way in which us humans should treat one another. She certainly taught me the lesson of a lifetime in that one small, simple act of kindness. Whereas most customers at that restaurant, having experienced an off day from a waitress, would have jumped on Yelp to rip her apart and leave a nasty review, my mom simply did what she does: spread kindness.
Some girls want to grow up to be like their favorite singer or their favorite actress or maybe even their favorite teacher. I’ve always wanted to grow up to be just like my mom. So far, I’m only a cheap imitation of the real deal but I’ll keep trying. I love you mom.