Wind Beneath My Wings

The song, Wind Beneath My Wings, was playing on the car radio the other day and it started me thinking how much my mother influenced me with her encouragement and support.

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She was my biggest cheerleader and supporter.

I remember she told me when I was born that Joe went to the Tatham Social Club and told everyone there that I was the prettiest baby girl in the whole nursery. It’s not that I actually was; what’s important is that every loving father thinks his daughter is the best and every loving mother tells her daughter she is the best.

She told me it was the happiest day of her life when I was born~she had a daughter, after having two sons.

Once I had applied for a job and Mare inquired what was happening. I stated maybe they didn’t like me. Immediately she said “How could they not like you?”

There was a Seinfeld episode with the very same theme. Remember when Jerry was pitching a pilot to NBC and he was waiting out their decision and he said “Maybe they don’t like me.” Mrs. Seinfeld reacted, “How could they not like you?” Every loving parent thinks the same thing and communicates it.

I had Mare’s approval on the way I dressed and how I decorated and cared for my home. She was always complimentary. My hair~not so much. She would tell me if it looked messy or dry and suggest I needed a deep conditioner. Once, when I said to her she needed a good haircut, she said: “You know, sometimes your hair looks like a horse’s tail, but I don’t say anything because it isn’t nice.” I think that’s a mother-daughter thing and probably a topic for another story.

She thought I was smart and believed I knew everything. Really. She would ask a question and if I said “I don’t know”, she would say, “But you have your Master degree.” Seriously.

Once, we were in the hardware store shopping. She needed garbage bags for the kitchen waste bin. I picked up a box of 250 bags. She asked if that was enough, should she get 2 packages? I said, “Well if you use one bag a week, this package would last 5 years.” She turned to the pimply faced young boy who was helping us and said, ” My daughter is very smart. She has her Master’s.” He must of thought, “Oh boy, it’s gonna be one of those days.”

It wasn’t that I thought I knew everything. Mare conveyed to me that she had faith in me to reason anything out, big or small. For the most part. She disapproved of me getting married when I was only 18 years old and she disapproved of me getting a divorce 7 years later. She worried about “where I would fit in.” As the years went on, she saw that I could manage very well on my own.

Mare was proud of my degrees and what I accomplished in college. It was Mare who financed my undergraduate degree. I had stupidly delayed going to college after high school and got married instead. So although I was married, against her wishes, she paid for my tuition because she wanted to see me go to college and  not be stuck without the ability to earn a living.

When I went to grad school, I was no longer married. I paid for tuition and fees myself as I had been working for 4 years and saved money. However, Mare gave me living expense money, monthly, to make things a little easier on me.  She was the one who made it possible to start and complete my education and go on to have a successful career, enjoy financial prosperity, and accumulate wealth.

She took pride in all the positions and companies that I worked for over the years in my Human Resources career. I have always said that ‘behind every successful person is a woman.’ For me, it was Mare.

She helped me run my home when I was working long hours or traveling extensively. She did my errands. She arranged and met the repairmen and contractors at my home. She did stuff that needed to be done at my home. She varnished my sun room that was covered in knotty pine paneling, walls and ceiling, one hot summer day. She had a neighbor remove a snake she found in my yard. Little things, big things, she took care of what needed to be done, to make my life easier.

She was concerned about the effects the demands of work had on me and how emotionally draining it all was. I had dinner with her every night [when I wasn’t traveling] and she was always nurturing and encouraging. A home cooked meal and a glass of wine and upbeat conversation~balm for the soul. Remember, Mare and Joe took care of my dog Casey for me while I was at work. What a Gift!

At one point, she suggested that I train to become a yoga teacher as she knew how much I enjoyed going to yoga classes and how much I gained in fitness and relaxation. In retrospect, I should have given more thought to her suggestion.

When she thought I needed help or advise she gave it. Mostly, what I remember of her loving, challenging, important words to me were:

Be bold. Show compassion. Persevere.

These were the hallmarks of her personality and her legacy.

maryamccarthybench

The thing is, the regrettable thing is, I didn’t let her know that she was the wind beneath my wings.

Mare passed on December 11, 2014, siting in her comfy chair, in her living room, in my arms.

Something about Mare

There was something about Mare. She was endearing. She smiled; hardly ever frowned. There was a softness about her; no hard edges on her. She was easy to approach and was eager to offer help. She told me her goal was to be kind and helpful to someone, everyday.

She was eccentric and said things that made you laugh out loud. She talked to everyone. She wanted to know “where people came from”. She was non-judgmental. She was habitually running late, but never hurried. Her watch, the kitchen clock, and the clock in her car were hardly ever set to the correct time and she didn’t care.

Despite her outward softness and approach-ability, she had an inner steel rod of character and strength. Her constant advise to me was: “Be bold. Persevere. Show compassion.” These were words she lived by.

maryamccarthybench

She was an extrovert. She loved to get in her car and “go out’. She loved her cars and they always seemed to turn heads~the 1968 Firebird, the green Dodge Charger, the black Lincoln Continental, the Ford Taurus SHO. Cars represented freedom to Mare.

There were some things Mare was dead serious about and she would let you know it. She had no use for the post office because they would return her out-going mail because she had the wrong zip code. “Now couldn’t they just figure it out?”, she would say.

mailman

Automated voice systems irked her to no end as she would try to talk as if she were talking to a real person. The telephone company was another irritant. She would dial a number incorrectly, a recording would come on and say the number didn’t exist and she would insist she dialed correctly. I would say “But Mom, it’s not a real person, just a recording.”

telephoneoperator

Red traffic lights were negotiable~ “Why waste my gasoline and time?”

She would never buy fruit or vegetables already in a bag. She thought the companies trained their employees to put one rotten piece in every bag just to make more money at her expense. She often used the 800 numbers on appliances to let the companies know that their “engineers didn’t know anything and they should ask house wives what they needed before they embarked on designing anything.”

Comcast was her nemesis as the television was a great source of entertainment and diversion for her in her later years. When it didn’t work, she got worked up. She would call customer service and “tell them off”. If I tried to defend the company or give and alternative explanation, she would say, “OH, bullshit!”.

comcast

Where my father was ‘thing smart’, Mare was ‘people smart’.

You wouldn’t want to argue with her as somehow she would always prevail, despite logic. When Christa McAuliffe was chosen as an astronaut for the Challenger Mission, Mare thought that was awful. Joe thought it was a great accomplishment. “No woman should be sent into space. Her place is in the home with her husband and children”, Mare stated. When the space ship exploded and Christa was killed, Mare spoke up for her bereaved husband and two children, aged 6 and 9.

christa

Lesson Learned~Don’t bet against Mare. In the long run, you will lose.