The last post was a brief history of my faith, as well as a quick explanation on why I feel called towards the Capuchins. However not everything they ask for is about your faith history. One of the key questions they focus on is my relationship with my family.
Since I am an only child and come from a single-parent household, most think that my family is much easier to explain. On the other hand, my relationship with my mother can be complicated. We don't fight or have some of the explosions that happen in other families, but my outlook on my mother and my memories of her are a big reason of why I feel called towards the priesthood. There are times I wonder if I'm just trying to live up to her expectation of public service and social justice. It is something I continue to work on.
It was a cold day in 1984, and I was home sick from school. Mom let me move our small black & white TV into my bedroom. She was in the kitchen that day with Bob, her boyfriend, making signs that said: “Vote!” She’s always been a staunch Democrat, and she was also making signs for Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferarro: two people we’d met in person earlier that year.
Later that day I heard a glass break in the kitchen, followed by shouting. I went to the kitchen, still in my pajamas, to see what was going on. There stood my mom, fists at her sides, staring up Bob who had his hand cocked back-ready to strike. My mother stands 4’11, while this man was easily over 6 feet tall. If it came to a fight, my mother would not last long.
I don’t know if they stood like that for 5 minutes, or if time stopped for me as I watched them. I don’t know if she saw me standing nearby; I don’t even know if she ever thought about how it might end. What I do remember is my mom, short yet defiant, saying in a calm voice: “Hit me. I dare you.”
He looked as if to swing, yet from the reaction on his face, it was as if he saw something in her eyes that told him he was in over his head. He turned, went to the closet to grab his coat, and slammed the door as he walked out. Mom started to cry. We never saw Bob again.
Thinking back, I’ve not seen my mother cry but a few times in my life. She has worked to be a strong, single parent mother. Perhaps that need to be strong for me is what imparted her with the strength of will to not only stand up to a man who outsized her, but the power to stand up to others in her lifetime. As she marched to Des Moines and argued with Governor Bandstand about welfare reform, I wonder if she drew on that experience to remind herself that she was capable of standing up to anyone.
Bob would be the last boyfriend my mom ever had. Since that time 28 years ago, my mother has never looked for another male companion. Some times I’ve asked if she was ever going to find a man and get married, only to hear her answer: “What the hell for?”
My mother is a fighter. I’ve never told her, but it’s the greatest quality I admire about her. She’s stood up for herself as well as others in times of need. When I ponder what my life would be like as a father, I wonder if I could display such courage to my children like the strong memory I have from that winter day in ’84.
While w don’t always agree, there has always been a high level of respect between my mother and I. There is rarely ever any shouting, and never any hateful outbursts. I’ve never done anything to show disrespect, and she has allowed me to live my life without scrutiny or hindrances. She’s always told me “You’ll never learn unless you make your own mistakes,” and she’s allowed me to learn about life.
There is an advertisement run by Mitt Romney, in which he speaks about how “every child is entitled to have a mother and father in the family.” She scoffs each time it plays on TV, in part because he’s Republican. More importantly, she knows that sometimes life isn’t always that picture perfect family of Mom, Dad, the kids, the house, the SUV, and the family dog. Sometimes God throws us a curveball in life, and we have to do the best we can. And no matter how many times Mitt talks about “family values,” I know my mom has more experience on the subject than any politician could ever dream of.