I am fortunate to spend 2018 Mother’s Day with my amazing Mom, Mary. 88 years old.
Mom and stepfather Erv live in a great retirement community Carolina Meadows, in Chapel Hill, NC. The community is beautiful and full of very interesting people including many retired academics. Best of all, it is an enclave of Democrats, hard to find in North Carolina. Erv serves as the precinct chair, and runs a tight meeting I am told.
In 2007, Mom and Erv left their home in Willow, Alaska to take up residence near my older sister Becky who lives in Cary, NC.
Growing up, we moved lots as a family, never staying in any house for more than 7 years. Protecting us from becoming hoarders, we don’t collect dust collectors or other “stuff”. Mom’s parents lived in assisted and full nursing care for more than 10 years, and she vowed never to burden her 4 daughters with hard decisions of elder care. On her 80th birthday she brought out 4 banker boxes, and told us ‘this is all the stuff that is left, take what you want, the rest is going in the trash’.
Last summer Mom had a stroke and now has a couple of stents. But she is holding her own, and peddles her bicycle wheelchair almost everyday. I remember Mom walking the dog every morning, it was her exercise and daily meditation.
She was able to hold her first great-grandchild Benjamin before Nephew David and Camilla left for Italy.
I am incredibly grateful to be the daughter of Mary Reardon. Mom was a social activist in her day and I got all my liberal politics and moral compass from her. In the mid-60’s we lived in Altadena, CA before moving to Alaska. Mom was active in community organizing, civil rights and opposing the Vietnam War, it was 1960’s. I remember her always wearing a anti-war pin. She volunteered driving visiting Russian basketball players around Los Angeles -during the Cold War. She worked with a neighborhood group opposing a ballot proposition that would allow discriminatory housing practices. My Mom was a rebel in her own way.
In the spring 1968, we moved from Southern California to Anchorage, Alaska. Four daughters and a Dad sinking into alcoholism, he was dead in 7 years, the move was a culture shock. I don’t think any of us owned socks, certainly not mittens. Mom was essentially a single parent working in the business office of Providence Hospital for a very tough supervising nun, Sister Agnus. She would come home in tears, because she hadn’t been able to balance the cash drawer, the Sister was a tyrant. Fortunately, Mom got her real-estate license and became a very successful agent and later a broker.
My best times with Mom was driving around Anchorage looking at houses she would later show customers. This was before the internet and virtual home tours. Mom had a mobile phone the size of a small suitcase in her car. She sold many of my friends their first homes in Anchorage, Alaska. I was glad my friends got to know her as well. They know how truly amazing she is, and I was happy to share her.
Mom married Erv in 1978. He had come to work for her as a real-estate agent, but she told him he couldn’t work for her and get married, so he quit. Good thing.
Their lives in Alaska was full of flying in Erv’s small plane and fishing, they would later move to their cabin in Willow and turn it into a retirement home on the shores of Shirley Lake with a view of Mt. McKinley out their front window. Mom would strap on her cross-country skies and ski around the lake with her sweet Australian Cattle Dog Aussie. They would later spend time in an RV traveling around the lower 48 states. One day, Aussie escaped the RV in a Wal-Mart parking lot while they were loading groceries. Thankfully Erv happened to look in the rear-view mirror and there was Aussie.
Mom served on the community board for the Valley Hospital, in Palmer, AK. Sarah Palin was also on the board, but Mom said she rarely contributed or even spoke at meetings. That was many years before Palin ran for office, or saw Russia from her front porch. Mom was one of few (if only) pro-choice voice on the board, she has always supported Planned Parenthood. She volunteered as a guardian ad litem for native children, and she and Erv were active in a small Methodist Church in the Matanuska Valley.
They have lots of new retirement friends at Carolina Meadows, playing bridge, book clubs, and Erv (age 91) playing croquet with his custom make wooden mallet. They have a very good life together.
I have been blessed with a good life, because of my Mother.