As I sat down to write this eulogy for my mother I had complete writers block as I tried to focus on the chaos surrounding my life since my mother died. I know from talking to every one of her friends that she loved me very much, and I loved her very much too.
Normally in a eulogy I’m supposed to share fun little stories about her so people can remember her, and understand just how much she meant to me. But my mom wasn’t traditional, she believed “a dreamer lives forever” and you can go anywhere you want in time and space just by getting lost in books while gaining new knowledge at the same time. So I’m going to start off by talking about my dad, Something I wasn’t allowed to do when he died in 1999 because I was still too angry at him for how he treated her, but now realize he really gave her the fuel to excel at life.
From an early age, my mom loved auto racing and would go to various car races at Grundy County Fair Grounds, or up to Elgin to go racing. She loved music so much she worked at Moles Den where she met Butch, the man who called her dynamite and captured her heart. She often joked that he was a total dork and she wasn’t that interested in giving him a first date but did because his last name of Bettenhausen was connected to auto racing and she thought she could get to meet Gary or Tony Bettenhausen.
My mom swore she would never have children because she hated the idea of baby talk and all the other things that came with children but my dad talked her into it. I was conceived during the Popes Sermon in Grant Park on October 5th 1979 and a growing up every single time there was a fight about something I had done, my mom would say to my dad “Let’s have a baby.” I always thought that meant that she didn’t want me. Nearly most of my childhood was spent believing this because of how my parents argued. I now realize as an adult that she was reminding Butch about how you have to sacrifice for children, and he never wanted to end his playboy party lifestyle.
In the 35 years of my life on this earth, I know that my mother evolved and changed a lot as the person I knew. When I was a little kid she was my best friend. She didn’t tell me not to do things, instead she showed me why I shouldn’t do things. She would hold mature adult conversations with me and never used baby talk on me. She talked to me about things that I became interested in, like history, and computers, and science. She encouraged me to leave my mark on the world and be remembered, not because I had a name on a headstone, but because I had created something that someone else enjoyed.
She taught me to never accept anyone else’s 2nd best long before Madonna ever sang about it. If the people who wanted to be in my life to love me couldn’t love me in the way I felt I needed to be loved, then they could simply get out of my life.
She taught me to take care of the people who raised me by taking care of her parents when they became ill. She worked less and less hours, and even took demotions at work just to be available to her mother during rehab after a brain tumor surgery, she went grocery shopping, not just for one household, but for two, she cleaned not just one household, but two. She taught me that you don’t pay someone else to take care of the people you love when you’re able to do it yourself with the help of your spouse and children.
She would wake up in the middle of the night when it was snowing so she could be sleeping on the couch at her parents’ house so that my grandfather didn’t try to shovel the driveway himself, even though she had chronic bronchitis and could barely breathe, she would be outside, in shorts and a sweater shoveling the snow just so my grandfather didn’t slip and hurt himself doing it.
As a young teenager I cut my grandfather’s grass twice every time I cut the grass just to make sure that a single blade of grass was not missed. I follow in the footsteps of two generations of people who had an amazing attention to details in life. This has become a fault in my personal life as I am now overly critical of the details in my own house with my husband.
My father didn’t make life easier for her, but she loved him selflessly, and after his death she had no desire to remarry or date again. She lost her fire to fight. The very fire everyone talked about idolizing in my mom, and wanting to grow up to be like, myself included. Everything in life is about balance, and he was the immature one, she was the mature adult. My father attempted to reign in his control often in life by reminding my mother that he wore the pants in the house. Her reply was to simply remind him who worked the zipper in that household.
Looking at the pictures that exist before I was born, I realize my mom was very beautiful when she would get made up, I didn’t get to see that side of her as much as I would have liked to. She didn’t like wearing make-up and dresses, but rather preferred slacks and comfortable shoes. She played soccer and softball growing up, she watched all sports, and taped most years’ coverage of the Olympics. She was a dedicated Chicago Cubs fan, and got the son she always wanted when Kieth moved into our house. He was interested in almost all the same things as her, and she was a second mother to him, often times defending him during our lovers spats to point out how I was wrong.
She loved everyone selflessly and unconditionally, and often compared me to my very cold father; my mom was afraid I would grow up to be very much like him, and I admit I have a lot of his qualities of being a hard assed screamer, especially when my husband is involved. But I learned her tact at utilizing it. When she suffered pulmonary failure on December 1st 2004, I crumbled, and didn’t know what to do at first. I had doctors telling me to start making final arrangements at that time. She had filed bankruptcy just prior to that, and the bank refused to accept the payments on the house at the time. Bankruptcy discharged on December 8th of that year, and I started getting letters with intent to foreclose on our house. So here I was about to be a homeless orphan at 24 with no one in my life because I was too busy being selfish.
It was in that moment, I understood the fire my mom had for life, the fire and passion to fight to survive, the passionate love for another person that causes them to fight on behalf of someone else just to improve their quality of life, and give them a second or third chance.
I started fighting the banks, I got her a better team of doctors who got her out of the coma and gave her a second chance at life. Two days after she was discharged from the hospital we were at a lawyer’s office to file another bankruptcy to save the house.
That worked for a few years until she got sick again in 2008 and the intent to foreclose letters started again. Tired of playing games with Wells Fargo, I contacted a friend at Chase, and I bought her out of her bankruptcy and saved the house. I continued this fight again in 2013 when the mortgage payment went up and the lender refused to work with us on a modification. And I know I’ll have to continue this fight again in a few months.
I would argue with doctors and nurses on her behalf on any mistreatment of care I felt she was receiving, and she often compared me to Shirley MacLaine from “Terms of Endearment” When I would scream about why aren’t you giving my mother the proper medications.
My mom got a second chance at life because I remembered all those lessons she taught me about fighting selflessly and loving someone unconditionally, and allowed me time to sit down with her as an adult instead of the spoiled brat that I once was. Her fire lives on in me, so when I scream at my husband it’s with the same passion I was taught by my mother.