Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dearly missed mother is a role model for other parents
Carolyn: As many of you know, I lost my mom, Liz Hax, to ALS in 2002. Every fall, I participate in the Walk to Defeat ALS to raise money and awareness to fight this horrific illness.
Pittsburgh: (Your campaign in your mother's memory) made me wonder, off and on all week, what in your personal opinion made your mom so very special? Many of us reading your column have difficult and sometimes downright unhealthy relationships with our parents, but want very much to rise to the occasion for our own children. How did your mom pull it off?
I have a little girl and I want to do my best by her.
Carolyn: That you care so much to get this right will probably go a long way toward making you an excellent parent.
But it's a great question, and it's something I have in the back of my mind often. It would probably be good for me to bring it to the front.
Things I really liked about my mom:
She was there. She listened to our stories, knew our friends, came to our games.
She had a sense of humor that was sly, whimsical and ever-present. She single-handedly started a spaghetti fight, a salad fight and several water fights in our house. The salad fight started when we were all hanging around the dinner table talking and picking at the leftovers, and someone must have said something ridiculous, because she took a handful of salad and threw it at the person. That was the end of that.
She hated overheated rooms, self-important people, chitchat, knickknacks, dumb television, makeup, phonies.
She was engaged with the world around her, and didn't seem out of place in a library or at a concert or at a sporting event, in pursuits high and low, so she was in a position both to encourage varied interests and enjoy them with us.
She didn't just grant us freedom to decide who we wanted to be. It was clear she enjoyed the process of watching us become those people. When we asked for help, she gave it, but otherwise stepped back and let us figure things out (even though it was obvious it was straining her very being just to hold herself back).
She was as flawed as anyone and, while she made an effort not to inflict her flaws on everyone, she also didn't withhold herself from us. She could, for example, hold a grudge longer than I think ever recorded in human history. If you told her someone was mean to you in school, she hated that person forever, no matter how nice the person turned out to be. She got crabby, burned dinner, said just the wrong thing. No veneer of perfection there.
She had four babies in five years and wrangled them into adulthood without (as far as I can tell) backing down or succumbing to indulgence. No meant no. But she also knew that it was possible to teach the value of hard work and delayed gratification, while still allowing moments of unearned, overpriced joy.
I miss her every day.
If you would like to sponsor my team, the Hax Pack, go to fightals.alsinfo.org/site/TR?pg=teamlist&fr_id=1225 and scroll down to Hax Pack. To learn more about ALS, go to www.alsa.org.