This Mother’s Day, I’m thinking about my mom quite a bit. In 2007, the first Mother’s Day after her death, I felt her absence very keenly. Last year, I was caught up in the euphoria of being a mom for the first time myself. Though I did miss her and thought about her, I wanted to celebrate my new little boy. This year, I have been reflecting on the things I know she would have loved to experience; seeing and holding Brandon, hearing his baby babble, talking to me about all the questions I’ve had, giving Matt and I advice, etc. The list is miles long. I’ve also been going through old family photos to scan them and so I’ve been getting a very concentrated look at Mom’s life through the photos.
My mom was born on October 24, 1949, the fourth and final child of Philip and Sally Dickey. She enjoyed learning and doing things with her hands. She learned to sew, embroider, knit and crochet, though she didn’t ever feel that she was as good at them as her mother. I think that was mostly because she didn’t have as much of an interest in them as my grandmother, who spent many, many hours creating beautiful pieces for herself, her kids and her grandchildren.
Mom’s talents were very broad. She played the bassoon in band through middle and high school and taught herself how to play tenor sax because she had access to the instrument through her sister who played. She used to tell me how she would read the encyclopedia for fun. It’s no wonder that she was the salutatorian of her high school graduating class in 1967. In fact, the girl who was the valedictorian tried to get school administrators to award the honor to my mother because she felt mom had taken harder courses and was more deserving, even though her GPA was slightly lower. We certainly don’t live in a time when many teenagers would make that kind of request now. Mom didn’t feel that she was cheated; she was in the right place because she had the lower GPA.
In 1969, Mom (like her sisters and brother before her) entered the military. She went into the Navy and served there for a couple of years. She didn’t talk a lot about the time she spent in the Navy, but I know that she spent a chunk of it quite ill with mono and then was honorably discharged after she got married and became pregnant. Knowing my mother, she was probably thrilled to be discharged so she could be a full-time mom. That was something she wanted very badly: to have a big family. I think it must have been quite difficult for her to make the decision to take my older brother and leave her first husband when she found he wasn’t who she thought he was.
After leaving her first husband in Virginia and moving back home to Tallahassee, Mom spent several years as a single Mom. She then reconnected with my father, whom she’d known years before. We found out from Dad after her death that he’d attended her first wedding (shown right). He actually drove 17 hours to be there. Mom and Dad began meeting up regularly and eventually decided to get married. They had a civil ceremony and took a short trip to Jacksonville for their honeymoon. Their marriage was not the stuff of dreams for many years. After many struggles, though, they became the best of friends.
In 1985 or 1986, Mom was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis (neurosarcoidosis). She struggled with breathing problems, deteriorating eyesight, muscle breakdown, various gastro difficulties and eventually nausea attacks so severe that she had to be hospitalized for anywhere from 3-10 days at a time. In 2004, Mom was never out of the hospital for more than 4 days at a time from June to December. There were a couple of instances when there was very real fear that she might not make it. Just before Christmas, she had a surgery that stablized her system and she didn’t need hospitalization for almost a year and a half. When she had to go to the hospital for the first time again in June 2006, she was very discouraged. I think, in a way, she simply didn’t want to get on that roller coaster again.
Mom dealt with this disease for over 20 years and often concealed the severity of her symptoms, even from my Dad. She stayed positive and upbeat for all of us, only telling us what she felt we really needed to know so that we didn’t worry. She cared about us so much that she kept going, doing things to make us happy, even when it could be detrimental to her health. My mom was an amazing woman…strong in spirit, smart, beautiful, kind, generous to a fault, selfless, loving and a woman I absolutely want to emulate in my own life. My mom is my hero and I was so privileged to have her in my life.