Betty Jo Croft died at the age of 92 last weekend.
That has little direct link to the area other than her visit, acknowledged, but she was my mother and there is a cliché about sons and their mothers.
I think that one goes back and comes even with a Freudian descriptor, but conjures images way to creepy for me and my mom.
And this is no visit to the couch while poor readers are subjected to what is better put to a therapist.
Subjectively, no matter how difficult it is for me, and my brothers and sisters, to sort through some of the emotions, there is an objective side that demonstrates the many ways my mom embodied the modern evolution of women in our society.
This, I realize, for somebody wearing pants is a trip into delusion, but indulge a few hundred words.
My mom was born in a small town in Iowa, Monticello, which I remember as a kid being a playground compared to our home in a large city.
When I say Monticello was small, when I was kid, a generation removed from my mother, it would have made Port St. Joe seem downright cosmopolitan in comparison.
Betty was of Scandinavian descent, her maiden name Guyan, and clearly within a mighty healthy gene pool.
My grandmother lived to 88, her mother lived to be 93, my mom’s aunt into her 90s and my mom’s “younger” brother turned 90 this year.
This, obviously, is a hereditary line in which I am placing much stock.
But two threads, being raised in small-town, corn-belt Iowa with that Scandinavian descent combined in my mother, just my theory here, in stoicism and discipline.
I am not tattling out of turn to say my mother believed a hug and a ruler to the buttocks were simply different forms of delivering love.
That small-town girl ended up attending Northwest University outside of Chicago and what remains one of the great journalism schools in the land.
There she met my father, also a journalism student, and she put her career dreams, whatever they may have been, to the side.
In a 10-year span she would give birth to six children, three boys and three girls; she did that while the family moved four times as my father’s career advanced, from Nebraska to Tennessee to Ohio.
Over the next decade, my mom was a homemaker, the epitome of one.
What we six children, and my father (who was entirely wrapped up with the newspaper he was editing), put that woman through is, in retrospect, truly unsettling.
She weathered it all, sustained, most of us kids believed, by the little treats she would leave herself around the house.
(My mother turned hiding chocolate into an art form and think about, she was trying to keep it away from six kids. She was good).
And my mother provided us with a foundation of reading; this woman was never without a book and a trip to the local library on Saturday would result in a haul of six or eight or so which she would read by the next weekend.
To her, the television truly was the “Boob Tube.”
She was also an amazing knitter; if she was reading in any downtime she was knitting.
Once she had kids old enough to take care of the younger ones, using that characterization extremely loosely, my mother went back to college.
To finish degree credits to do what, one might ask of someone who had birthed and was raising six children?
My mother spent three decades teaching elementary school.
And of all the many schools in Toledo, Ohio she chose to teach, and would remain her entire tenure, at what was a true inner-city school.
My father supported her even after she was mugged, her purse was stolen and the car windows were smashed.
My parents were progressively ahead of their time: my father would win a major national writing award for a series of editorials pertaining to the inequalities in a minority school district.
My mother started at sixth grade but soon learned that those kids knew just a bit more profane language and disobedience than she was willing to take: she had already heard enough from her children.
She moved to fourth grade but again sought a change when she received a child of 10 who was unable to even spell his name and had just been passed on at the school.
Her last teaching years were in second grade.
She also became a Guardian Ad Litem, advocating for abused or neglected children in the legal system.
My father finally convinced her to retire, but before they could enjoy retirement traveling with a small cottage on Crystal Lake in Michigan as a base, my father passed away.
After a period of mourning, however, my mother, with some friends she met at the lake, joined a travel club and around the world she went for more than a decade.
She had earned it and she was going to enjoy the life she could carve as a widow.
After a few years she even found a man who became her companion for several years before he also passed away.
The end may have come over the weekend, but it really began a few years ago when she broke her hip in Europe.
She never traveled again and as her world got steadily smaller, her health slowly slipped downhill.
As I started this little blurb, there are myriad emotions, one being, as stated by a friend five minutes after I learned of my mother’s passing, “you only have one mother.”
And, given the opportunity to sort through some of the baggage I arrive at a statement I frequently make about my wife, which is that I married way over my head, which I did.
Well, fracture that a bit, I was “mom-ed” way above my station.
The rest, I believe, I will leave to the therapist.