Here’s to You, Mom!

September 13, 1917. My mother’s birthday. When I was a child, my mom told me that she’d been born on Friday the 13th. It never occurred to me to doubt this, much less go to the pre-internet trouble of fact-checking this tidbit of information. So I don’t remember what prompted me to look it up when such things became simple. I DO remember teasing my mother that her mom probably told her she acted like she’d been born on Friday the 13th. In fact – she was born on a Thursday.

My mother was a Rosie the Riveter in WWII. She welded ship bottoms in the Oakland shipyard, justifiably proud of her job — only the best were allowed to weld the bottom of a ship. She had lots of stories to tell of that era, bringing alive World War II for those of us born into a subsequent generation, if we cared to listen.

Family always came first with my mother. In the early 1990s, listening to Pat Buchanan give a Republican National Convention keynote speech waxing eloquently about the homosexual agenda and family values, my mom was horrified to realize how far to the right her Republican party had drifted on social issues. She had been a fiscal Republican, blaming the problems of the country on Roosevelt and the New Deal. She voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, and never voted Republican again. My jaw just about hit the floor when she told me she had switched her party affiliation. She didn’t have to say a word to me about this huge change in her world view; in telling me of her vote, she was also telling me how much my safety and well-being mattered to her. She was living her love for her family.

My mother died 19 years ago. Nineteen years ago today. A couple of years ago, I realized I’d passed into a new stage of grief about my mother’s death. Prior to that time, the date January 22 did not approach without my being aware of its imminence. This new grief stage is different – the date doesn’t pass without acknowledgment, but it does approach without my circling it in red in my mind. I realized the date this morning as I sat in church, the perfect place to toss a prayer of thanks heavenward for giving me Elizabeth Vanderburgh as my mother.

Author: reidpdx

I am an honorary lesbian transman, married to a woman, singing baritone in the Portland Gay Men's Chorus. All me, all the time.

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