On March 13, my mother celebrated her 69th birthday. I am thrilled to still have her in my life, and I cherish every moment we spend together. You see, two years ago she was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer.
On the day she received her diagnosis, she was immediately admitted to the hospital. We had no idea what to expect. I was eight months pregnant at the time and could not stop crying, day and night. My mother spent Christmas in the hospital, making it the worst Christmas EVER, then she had extremely invasive surgery which left her in the ICU for days.
Once she was strong enough to undergo chemotherapy, she completed six rounds over a period of about 5 months and was cancer-free. In the spirit of celebrating her recent birthday, I want to honor her by sharing the incredible life she has lived.
My mother was born in 1942 in rural Spain. Her mother suffered from tuberculosis and was 47-years-old at the time of my mother’s birth. Due to complications associated with the birth, my grandmother died two days after my mother was born.
There were nine children in the family, many of whom were shipped off to be raised by other relatives. My mother remained in the home and was raised by her 14-year-old sister. Unfortunately, my mother was treated like nothing more than another mouth to feed. She never received any affection from anyone, and her basic needs were barely met.
Although they were poor, my mother said that she never felt she was because everyone around her was poor. The most important thing missing in her childhood was someone who cared about her. My mother told me a story about how one of her childhood friends, Mari Carmen, would bully her.
For example, Mari Carmen wouldn’t let my mother go home using a cleared path, so my mother had to walk through mud and tall weeds. One day, my mother tried to do the same thing to Mari Carmen. Mari Carmen called out for her mother who then responded to find out what was going on. My mother remembers wishing she had someone to call out to for help.
My mother attended school for three years, from age 8 to 11. At the age of 13 she was sent to live with a family to be their maid. Needless to say, she didn’t have much of a childhood at all. The only picture that exists of my mother as a child is a picture of her on the day of her First Communion. She is standing with her sister. They both look absolutely miserable.
I recently learned that my mother’s home didn’t have electricity until she was 16-years-old! I was shocked. They grew their own food, spun their own wool, and knitted their own socks. It is the polar opposite of the suburban American childhood in which I was raised.
In her twenties, my mother worked as a cook in several different restaurants. She met my father when she was almost 30 and they married three months later. They came to the United States about a year later while she was 8 months pregnant with my oldest brother. (I guess they allowed super pregnant women to fly back then.)
My father had gotten a job as a truck driver in New Jersey, and jobs were scarce in Spain, so they decided they would live in the U.S. for about 5 years then return to Spain. Thirty-eight years, three children, and six grandchildren later, they are still here. They have a home in Spain and visit often, but they have embraced the American lifestyle.
When they first arrived to the U.S., my parents moved into a small apartment in Newark, N.J. My mother didn’t speak one word of English before moving to the U.S. She gave birth to three children in three years and learned how to drive for the first time.
She credits Oprah for teaching her English, and Dr. Phil for helping her work through the issues related to her childhood. Her life was never easy, but she has survived it gracefully.
Ama, as we call her, wasn’t an affectionate mother at all, but she showed her love for us in other ways. She valued nutrition, education, and health. By today’s standards, she may have been labeled physically and emotionally abusive at times. However, I don’t hold any negative feelings towards her because I recognize that given the childhood she had, she didn’t know any better.
My mother has told me how much she regrets the way she treated us and how she knows it was because of the way she was treated as a child. As a grandmother, she is completely different (as I assume most grandmothers are.) She is always ready to give hugs and kisses and to hold her grandchildren on her lap. I’m happy she’s had the opportunity to enjoy children in a way that she didn’t have the capacity to when my brothers and I were little.
This past November we received the bad news that my mother’s cancer had returned. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy for the second time. She never complains, doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her, and does not fear death (or at least she makes us believe that).
She dedicated her life to being a good mother, something that she never had in her own life. I feel fortunate to have had such an amazingly strong and resilient woman to be my role model.
Sometimes I am completely amazed at how different my life has been from my mother’s. Every time I hear a new story from her childhood, I am shocked that we’re related. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but I deeply admire and respect the woman she is and the obstacles she has overcome. And today, I’m happy that I have another day with her in my life.
What do you most admire about your mother? How are you different from her?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Kally Mocho of New Jersey, USA.
Photo credit of Ama to Kally Mocho.
Wow, Kally that is an incredible story. Such a journey your mother has taken, on lots of levels. My Mum was born in 1943 in Auckland, New Zealand and the thing I admire most about her is her passion for us kids (three girls) – she didn’t always get things ‘right’ but she did the best she could, and we know that. She and I are two very different people in many ways, but we share that passion for mothering.
I hope your mother survives cancer again and that she gets to enjoy many more days with her children and grandchildren. I shall be thinking of you all in the days ahead.
Thank you for your kind words and for thinking of us during this tough time. Knowing how much I love my mother, despite our differences, makes me feel like my children will love me despite all of my shortcomings as a parent. I guess love really does conquer all! Thanks for reading.
Your mother’s story has brought tears to my eyes. People with such difficult lives are usually the strongest in this world. They give the best to the people around them. I pray she gets well soon and comes out of her chemo successfully this time too. Hugs to her.
I admire ‘tolerance’ the most in my mother. And her capacity to forgive everyone and everything. I have never seen a more forgiving person.
Thank you for reading my story and for your prayers. Both of my parents have had very difficult childhoods, especially compared with mine. It’s only as an adult that I was able to appreciate where they’ve come from and what they’ve endured. They are amazing people.
Thank you for sharing your mom’s story Kally. She sounds like a pretty tough lady! I hope that she is able to beat her cancer recurrence so that you can hear more of her stories and she gets to pass them onto the grandchildren 🙂
I admire my mother’s patience and compasssion…even with people she barely know. I wish I could be more like her in those areas.
Thank you Eva! She’s a tough lady, so I’m hoping we have her for many years to come. Thanks for reading.
Hoping for good health news for your mother. Thank you for sharing her story with us!
I admire my mother’s motivation to get things done. She always had us cleaning something out or doing yard work with her working the hardest in the middle of it all.
My mother and I are different in that she is too shy to sit at a black jack table because she’s afraid she’ll do something wrong, and I have no problem sitting at a black jack table and making mistakes outside the “rules” of the game. She’s less of a risk taker.
Best wishes again to your mom, Kally!
Veronica Samuels 😉
Thank you for reading and for your comments. I love that your mother had you all working around the house. I can’t wait to start that with my kids. I can also relate to her shyness at the black jack table. Some of those casino games are intimidating!
You not only tell this story well, but you also bring such wonderful perspective to it. I am always reminding myself to celebrate the relationships I have with people rather than focusing on how they don’t meet a particular expectation. You understand what your mom went through and allow her to be who she is and respect her for it, not always easy for a child to do with a parent. I wish your mom good health and many more years of cuddling, kisses, and connecting with you and your family.
Thanks for your kind words. As a social worker, I use a lot of empathy in my work with the people I serve, but sometimes it’s not as easy to do with the ones you love. My mother is a very caring and selfless woman, so she’s easy to love. She has softened up a lot throughout the years. I have a great appreciation for what she’s been through and how far she’s come.
For me, having my own children helped me see things from a parents point of view and helped me to understand things differently. I have also found it very healing to give my children what I didn’t have. Seems like your mom felt the same. Truly hope she gets better and wins another battle with cancer.
I totally agree with you Maggie. It was only after I became a parent that I realized what a difficult job it was. It was much easier for me to understand why my mother struggled with it at times. Thanks for your warm wishes for my mother’s health.
My mum and I are very different in a lot of ways, which I guess is understandable as we had totally different upbringings. She was one of four and growing up on a farm in the north of Norway in a different time – and I grew up as an only child in a flat in the capital. When I was pregnant we discovered that she had a tumour the size of an orange that had to be removed, and it just hit me how dependent I am on my mum all though I am supposed to be all grown up by now! It was removed and she was given the all clear – but that was so scary. I now try to not take her for granted and make sure that my son gets to spend as much quality time with her as possible!
So happy to hear your mother is well! That must have been quite a scare indeed. I, too, am very dependent on my mother. Lately, I’m able to help her through her chemo. It feels good to take care of her for once. Enjoy your time with your mum!
This post made me think about something I haven’t thought about in a long time, the black hole that is my mother’s past. She, too, had a very difficult upbringing which I believe affected her greatly as a parent. As a result, our strained relationship continues to haunt us to this day and I’ve spent my entire life trying hard to not be like her. Your story has renewed my longing to find out more about her past in order to understand and respect her better. Perhaps then I would be able to accept her for who she is, as you have done w/ your own mother, rather than constantly wishing she could be a different mother to me, and allowing the disappointment to damage us even more.
Thank you for sharing a very heartfelt and emotional tale w/ us, and we are all united in wishing your mother the strength for a successful recovery.
Wow. Thank you for that comment. When I was writing about my mother, it never once occurred to me that someone else would have a similar story. There were times that I felt badly about sharing my mother’s story because I didn’t want people to read it and think she was a bad mother. She made some mitakes, but we all do. Anyway, your comment took away any of the reservations I had. Thank you for writing about how this story affected you. It means a lot to me to know that my mother’s story was worth sharing.