With the passing of my mother earlier this year, I took time to pen some of the more salient thoughts and memories I have of her, and I believe they exemplify the importance of family and what, at the end of the day, we take with us from our family interactions.
More than anything, my Mother stood as a symbol of the changing America: a working mother, one with shared responsibility of raising children and working outside of the home, at a time when working mothers were not so common. In fact, I don’t recall a time when my mother was not employed. Even after retirement and because of her love of children, she worked as a foster grandparent for 11 years. Throughout it all, she was fiercely proud of her two sons, and she was committed to our well-being. This idea of boasting about her children simply came natural to her as a mother. She often would say to me “if you can’t be proud of yourself, no one else will be.” And let’s face it, there were times when I challenged her perspective.
In the very early years of my childhood, my parents worked opposite shifts. And I recall being home with my mother during the day, when my father was working and my brother was in school. I recall that on occasion when she wasn’t teaching me my ABC’s or how to read, she would put me to work, painting the concrete steps to our back porch. My paint consisted of a coffee can filled with water, and my brush was one that my parents had saved perhaps long past its intended survival. I would sit for what seemed like hours painting and repainting the steps while my mother folded laundry, cleaned the house, or simply sat watching me with that smile so often displayed when she looked at her children.
She was relentless in her commitment to our well-being. I recall when my brother was diagnosed terminally ill with cancer at the age of 24 years. I was living in an apartment and my mother implored me to move back home, telling me how important it was for our family to be together through the impending struggle. When we first got the news, I was sure my mother would fall apart. Learning that your child may die is a burden so overwhelming that many are never able to recover.
Pearl, however, surprised me. She became the driving force of optimism, accompanying my brother to every follow-up doctor visit, every radiation treatment, and every trip to Hershey Medical Center for chemotherapy.
While there are many factors involved in my brother’s survival of his diagnosis, without question, my mother’s persistence in making sure her children would be okay, was one of them. The will of Moses had nothing over the will of Pearl.
That was my mother, Pearl. She gave me the foundation of right and wrong, the ability to read, a strong work ethic, and through example taught me and my childhood friends at a young age that working mothers are good mothers, contrary to common sentiment of the 1950’s and early 1960’s.
I share these sentiments and reflections with you as a living example of the work we do at Family Service Association, the values of our practice, and the impact of family on us individually and communally. For more information on Family Service Association, contact us at 923-5144 or visit us at fsawv.org
Michael Zimmerman is Chief Executive Officer of Family Service Association in Wilkes-Barre.