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Margarent's Musings: Mother's Day always remembered in our house

Growing up Mother's Day was always celebrated with my dad's family, largely because he had a mom. Actually, my grandmother, the only one I knew, was his step-mom but as a child I didn't know that.

Once I found out, it really didn't make any difference because she was my grandmother regardless. She and my grandfather were amazing. Both immigrated here as children, both became citizens and they lived a remarkably "green" life. On one acre of land they practiced organic farming. They produced ducks, chickens and eggs along with the most amazing vegetables.

One of my favorite photos is a tattered black and white with grandma balancing a massive cabbage on her head. It was twice the size of her head. I also remember seeing old copies of Rodale's "Organic Gardening" in their house as a child. They lived a few short miles from our house so I often would spend the night. My grandmother was a mysterious person in away. On those nights when I would stay, I might get a glimpse of her nearly waist length hair, which always was fashioned in a roll around her head.

She died when I was in sixth grade so I was never really able to ask her the many questions that as an adult I would have liked to have had the answers to.

My mother, who remains a wonder to me for many reasons, is 88 and still active and quite frankly, in better physical shape than I am.

I recently found a book called "Reflections from a Mother's Heart." It is one of those books that provides questions which they simply have to answer.

I sort of held my breath as I opened the book. Much to surprise, my mother had taken the time to answer many of the questions.

Today, due to age, she probably could not recall many of the answers and that is okay, but I am thankful to have those treasures she shared while privately writing in the book.

My mother has always been what I would consider a shining example of not just a mom but of a caring, loving and giving human being.

Her life as one of three children of Italian immigrants wasn't easy. Most of her peers and her family, members, including me, knew very little of her past. It just wasn't a topic that ever came up. As a child I just knew I didn't have grandparents on that side of the family. So both Mother's Day and Father's Day were celebrated with dad's family.

Last week I took her in for an annual check-up and the physician's assistant persisted in asking about her parents, cause of death, any disease they suffered from. You know the drill. It is one we all go through.

At first I was polite, saying they both died when she was nine. That did not satisfy.

Once I emphatically told the truth we were able to move on. Mom, along with her two siblings, was orphaned when she was nine.

So even today, decades after I learned the truth of her childhood, I marvel at how she turned out. Was it because she was the middle child, because she had to work, even as a child, at the orphanage, was it because she is a devout Catholic, who even now holds her rosary each night and prays. Or perhaps it was joining the Navy Cadet Corp, which helped pay for her nurses training.

Or maybe it was just something intangible, something inherited. In today's society when we analyze everything and frequently rely on the concept that no matter what happens it is always somebody else's fault, I often ponder how on earth did she turn out?

More than ever I wonder how did someone like mom who didn't even have parents turn out to be a successful productive and contributing member of society.

One of the questions in the little book was "What were your youthful goals and ambitions for your life? Which ones have you been able to fulfill?

Her answer did not surprise me.

"I always wanted to help people. So by going into nurses training I was able to fulfill my dreams."

That she did working as a nurse for many decades, mostly as an OB nurse. After retirement she continued to work for over a decade as a veterinary assistant. She was a Girl Scout leader, 4-H leader and volunteered at her church and many other organizations.

Mother's Day is Sunday. It might be a good time for you to pause and seek out the little details of your mom's life before it is too late.

Happy Mother's Day.... 2013