My mom is one of my biggest heroes – single mom with 4 daughters who all went to selective 4 year colleges, 2 with masters (not part of extended family’s experience). My mom went back to college at least once each decade, but health and economics kept her from getting a BA (despite enough credits, they were never the “right” ones). She taught us to fight for justice by choosing where and how to spend our money; shopping at a store meant we financial supported what it stood for. We were to always stand up for the underdog, and try to be friends when possible. But to never tolerate bigotry or hatred (no this was not the multicultural 1990’s, it was late 1960s, 70s and until her death last year). Lousy attributes – well it’s my mom, how to address that? She was self-centered – for someone as liberal as she was, her mind was not open to conservative views. She and I had some terrible moments when I suggested that, while not agreeing, I thought my right-wing brother-in-law made some very legitimate arguments against legislation she worked for. She was hot headed – which kept her fighting the good fight when on course, and cause so many problems when off course. My biggest complaint as a teen: I felt like I was taking a backseat to local politics. That I cared about this new crisis called AIDS, but didn’t need her lecturing me every time I came home from college. But she was correct – voting was not a privilege, not even a right, it was a responsibility to ourselves, our families, neighbors down the street and strangers on the bus. It was our duty as citizens to vote and keep the country going.
At her funeral my sister and my mom’s dearest friend, Pat Dillon gave eulogies. And I realized the very things that made her my hero were also what made her intolerable at times.
My mom had been confined to a nursing home and wheel chair for several years. Not only did she live to see our first President of color, with amazing voter turnout, my mom used my extra cell phone to make campaign calls for him. 2010 she died two days before tight November election and we learned that she had already sent in her absentee ballot. When making arrangements, the minister and funeral home director didn’t understand how adamant we were that the service set around election day. As they heard my sister and Rep. Dillon speak, they came to understand that my mom saw poetry, social justice via local politics as fulfilling God’s call for us to care for each other.
My other heroes” Amelia Earhart (childhood hero); Susan B. Anthony (childhood hero); Maya Angelou; some of the homeless men who come into our library every day with grace and dignity and kindness to spare despite the hand they have been dealt; my friend who fought breast cancer at 25 and turned around to help other young women who couldn’t relate to older volunteers