Three kids. Two of the kids are home, one kid is at her friend’s house. The husband is out on a business run delivering street signs while the mother is home watching the two young children.
The phone rings.
“Hi, is this Chiyo Miller?”
“Yes?” Immediately, she knows something is wrong.
“You need to come to the hospital. Your husband has gotten into an accident. He is not doing well.”
Her stomach drops. Her mind swirls into a panic as she immediately hangs up the phone and calls the home where her oldest kid is playing to ask if the parents could watch the children.
Within minutes, the plans are made and she heads to the hospital where she learns her husband is on life support.
All of his ribs are broken, both lungs have collapsed, his heart has stopped two times and he has been resuscitated each time before heading into emergency surgery.
The year was 1986, I was 2, my brother was 4, and my sister was 6. My mom taught swimming at the YMCA as a side income and. my dad had a business making municipal signs.
Everything shut down very quickly for my mom when my dad was hit by a tractor-trailer. She became his caretaker, she took care of us while our dad spent two weeks recovering in the hospital. When he was released, he could barely work.
My mom had to figure out how to piece together the business, how to pay the bills and how to stay calm during this incredibly stressful time to ensure my dad would recover well and the family would continue to grow and prosper.
That laid the groundwork for my mom’s parenthood.
Rarely do I remember her complaining, I never heard her wish she was dealt a different set of cards. Within two years of the accident, my parents moved to the home where they still live.
They took a risk on my dad’s business, the risk didn’t pan out and they eventually were forced to sell the business. After they sold the business, money became an issue. Things were never great for us financially.
We didn’t have cable TV. We didn’t have flashy vehicles, we didn’t have the newest clothing or the best sports equipment.
But what we had were parents that were willing to work. Specifically my mom.
I remembered my mom working as a teacher, working at JC Penney and as a waitress at a local hotel on the weekend. All while she was still coaching swimming and making sure we always had a prepared meal on the table to eat. It’s overwhelming to think about how much time she put into raising us well.
She taught me to go with the flow. She would always just put her head down and work. There were no excuses, there was no time for a “woe is me” attitude. Deep down inside, she knew it would still be better than dealing with a tragic car accident, so why not just move full steam ahead while providing for her kids?
Her love never waned. My brother and sister may say it’s because I was the baby, I was the favorite obviously but my mom always supported me in every way. She would drive straight from work to see our sporting events, then leave a sporting event to head to JC Penney to finish her night of work. Meanwhile, we would go home to a prepared meal with directions on a small note card on how to heat up the meal and prepare our own dinner. Somehow she found a way to spoil us, even when she was not there, she was still taking care of her kids, making sure they sat down for dinner and ate well!
Work ethic is what she has passed on to the three of us. It makes me proud to brag about my sister, the consultant who worked her ass off to become chief of staff in DC. She used everything she learned in the government to become a communications consultant to help technical businesses kill the game.
Then there is my brother, the aerospace engineer turned sustainable farmer. Now he continues to farm AND run the marketing for Earth Fed Muscle.
I believe a lot of it comes back to the car accident my dad was in. A lot of it comes back to the urgency my mom had as a parent from 1986 to 2002. Those were the hard years, the years they had to deal with the three of us in the house while struggling to pay the bills.
But it worked. My mom made sure it worked. It worked because of her work ethic, her ability to care about the little stuff and the fact that there was never any value on materialistic things.
She taught us to value work. She taught us to value time together as a family, watching Seinfeld on a blurry TV while my dad was on the roof turning the antenna to get a better image. She taught us that the little stuff is what matters, that if you want something, you need to work for it. You can’t complain, you can’t sit and wait, you need to be urgent and work toward those goals. Those lessons were huge for us at a young age.
For me, Mother’s Day is not about celebrating what she’s taught us for one day. Mother’s Day is about taking those lessons learned and applying them every single day.
My goal now is to let my mom know what she did for me on a more regular basis. I want to communicate to her regularly how much of a positive impact she had on my life and continues to have on my life. A daily note, a consistent message, just letting her know, “Mom, thanks for everything, I love you.”
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