Mom is strong role model, ‘tough old bird’

Published 12:52 am Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Today, September 18, she turns 94. She says she doesn’t want to celebrate — says she’s done with that kind of thing.

I asked her about being 94. What does it feel like? She says she hasn’t given it much thought. In fact, she never gives age much thought. Been that way her whole life.

And what a life it’s been. I try to imagine all the amazing changes in the world since the day she took her first breath. A lot happened in 94 years.

She arrived in a world where cars were still a relatively new thing. Some places were just getting electricity and indoor plumbing. Zipping across continents in airplanes wasn’t an everyday happening.

Adults probably still talked about World War I and the Second World War was years away. Kids didn’t park inside watching television. They made their own fun, and she has lots of stories to tell about that fun.

I’ve heard tales about making paper dolls from catalogs and playing outside with brothers until the daylight ran out. She remembers her mother teaching her to cook and helping her with things around the house.

Oh, she smiles so big when she talks about her Daddy. She tells me about helping him in his shop and how she loved to watch him make things.

There is the story about how she met a boy on a tennis court, the one who would someday be my Daddy. When he shipped out during the war and she waited at home for him.

In a time, when many women had a ring on their fingers before they reached the age of 20, she didn’t say “I Do” until her mid twenties. Unlike many of her time, she left home and worked for a while in the state capitol. I love to hear those stories. And she worked for a while after she married, something else that was probably not done much at that time.

Again, different from lots of women born when she was born, she was heading into her late twenties before she became a mother. Once she had children, her home and her family were the focus of her life. She raised six children, two boys and four girls, and she was also a mother to three adopted girls who joined the family after the death of their own mother.

From her those children learned how a mother loves. She taught them the importance of honesty, hard work and fun. Even at 94, her sense of humor is keen as ever.

She never stopped trying new things and discovered a love for golf at what some describe as, “later in life.” She built incredible dollhouses, some replicas of Victorian houses. She could paint and she cut her own grass until she was 90.

In her life, she said goodbye to parents, two brothers, her husband and perhaps the hardest goodbye of all, a son. Through it all, she kept her grief private and was the strength for everyone else.

Oh, and she has faith. Not the in your face, let me tell you my testimony kind of faith. It’s the quiet kind that shows itself in how she lives.

In a rare conversation we had about beliefs she told me.

“Everybody’s going to end up the same place. We just get there different ways.”

I like that philosophy.

Yes, today she turns 94 and she doesn’t want any fuss about it. She might not totally get her wish because her children won’t ignore the day. I think she’ll be fine with that.

And while she may be done with her birthday celebrations, I’m not. You see if she hadn’t been born, I wouldn’t be here to tell you about the amazing woman I call Mother.

So, Sibyl, I’m celebrating your birthday and I’d love to shout Happy Birthday from the rooftops because your life deserves celebrating. You are an inspiration, my role model and as you tell us, “A tough old bird.”



Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.