So what I expected since June has happened. They found a tumor on my mother’s brain. Her particular cancer, though beaten back in the lung has a tendency to reappear and the brain is one of the favorite locations for it. They can beat it back, radiation is a wonderful weapon. This will be an ongoing battle but my mom seems up to it. I never bet against her. Her life story is a series of battles some won, some lost, but in the end she is a survivor.
But I was thinking about her influence on me. A few years ago there was a study that suggested that teens moral development, among other things, were more a product of their peer group norms than their families’. But what I hope the researchers will do is to re-investigate these subjects later in life. I dare say while at the time of the research it would appear the peers have more sway but in the long run the foundation of our morality happens at the dinner table and on long rides to vacation stops and the daily actions of life we grew up with.
I was struck by this many times over the years. Last year when I met one of the women who went south to fight for equality during the civil rights movement spoke about how at the time she didn’t realize the power of the values learned from her parents, but reflecting back, she clearly sees a straight line from her Jewish values learned at the kitchen table and while the culture at the time influenced her as well, the base was built in family conversation and action.
For my mom, I remember the day I realized that it was my mom who helped create the radical I was in college. Twice my mother encouraged me to protest as a young person, both times ironically around the issue of getting a haircut. I always like having my hair long. In 5th grade I was going to join the Boy Scouts. When I filled out the form the Scout Master told me that to be a Boy Scout I needed to get my hair cut short. My mother made it clear to me that I would not join a group that requires uniformity. Later, in high school, a similar thing occurred with National Honor Society. My mother applauded when a got my pin with my hair in my eyes. I wish I still had the picture.
So as I watch mom fight this battle I know her influence made me who I am today, and I am happy to be have been able to tell her. Say a prayer for my mom and tell your own parents if you are able what they meant to you. If you can’t tell them, then tell their stories. Share their gifts with the world. I hope to share all she gave me over time.