October 9 will be my mother's 90th birthday. We are giving her an old-fashioned family party, the kind only a group of loud and crazy Italian Americans can throw for the family Matriarch.
My mother, Laura, raised my brother and I essentially by herself. My father walked out on the family shortly before my brother was born in 1961 and Mom rose to the occasion in much the same way as HER mother rose to the occasion when she found herself a young widow with two little children in 1918. Mom brought her son home from the hospital, hugged her six year old daughter, shed some tears, grabbed her Rosary and went to work.
I am very impressed, still, by the manner in which she handled the divorce. She chose not to shun my father and he was given total access to the family. Many of my friends at good old Christ the King School did not even know my parents were divorced. She treated him with kindness and compassion when he deserved none and, certainly by the standards of today, Mom was odd in her attitude towards my father.
However, as she probably expected, her children never wondered what their father was 'really' like - there were no illusions in our home as to who was the good and trustworthy parent.
My mother also made sure both her children were properly educated in their Catholic Faith and today one of those children is a faithful Catholic and the other one is determined to live a life based totally on what feels good at the moment. That means Mom is batting .500 which would get her into the Hall of Fame if we were talking baseball.....and the verdict is not in yet on the wandering Prodigal Child until that child stands before Jesus.
After all, the father that walked out on us oh those many years ago ended up coming back to The Church ten days before he died - going to confession and recieving the Eucharist PROPERLY for the first time in 50 years. To this day I am convinced the reason my Dad died shortly after coming Home to Rome is because God knows His children, and He knew there was no way my father would be able to sustain the disciplined life necessary to be a practicing Catholic. The first time the priest said something he did not like he would have been out of there....so it was in his best interest that he go back to his Maker so soon after his reconversion.
I love my mother. Sometimes she drives me crazy because she is stubborn and opinionated and usually right - about everything - but I am in awe of her strength and her moral courage. Mom is a woman of grace and dignity.
Someday I hope to be just like her.