I love you. You are my Special Valentine.
I know I don't say if often enough or always accompany it with a big bear hug. I feel bad about that.
You have always been my rock for over half a century in times of need.
It was you who brought me into this crazy world we live in. You who nurtured me as an infant so many years ago. You who saved my life when at 18 months I could barely breathe, called a surgeon at 2:30 a.m. and got him scurrying to the hospital. Immediately upon my arrival, he performed an emergency tracheotomy. I would have died had he not been there.
Mom, you taught me right from wrong. When I was little, it was by instruction. As an adolescent and adult, by modeling.
But it was your individualism, strength of character, forthrightness, willingness to fight the system and especially your independence that informed the man I am today.
During the earliest years, you insisted on having me tested because of my learning difficulties. My self-image was plummeting. This was the mid 1950's, when most parents were in denial of the term "learning disability." You wanted answers and solutions. You got them. It's probably why I have the ability to write you this letter now.
As an elementary student, you were my advocate. You fought my rigid third grade teacher who dictated all tests. There weren't dittos back then. I knew the answers, but couldn't write fast enough to record them. My grades were falling and frustration with school was burgeoning. You explored accommodation for my pokey handwriting.
Completing fourth grade,I was slated to have a fifth grade teacher known for terrorizing students. Aware of my fragility, you fought school administration resistance, insisting I be assigned another teacher. I was. She was wonderful and school began to turn around for me.
I remember all this. Not only was it a demonstration of your love, but what a woman of substance could accomplish when she set her mind to it.
When I was born you had completed only one year of college and were raising my older brother. Eight years later, my sister burst on the scene. You now had three children at home. My Dad, a brilliant research scientist, worked 12 to 14 hours a day. He was a great father, but his time was limited.
You had a full plate, yet made time to sell World Book Encyclopedias door to door earning a bit of extra cash, ensuring your daughter would have 15 volumes of Childcraft -- The How & Why Library. You went to work for a businessman, bought out his tiny company and worked it until you had to fold because of finances.
You created and wrote a shopping column for the local newspaper, "Shopping Around With Ruth." You had to get the advertisers and write the weekly column.
It was then I imagine you had an epiphany. You saw the direction your life was headed and projected 15 or so years out. The prospect wasn't pleasing.
You went back to college to earn a teaching degree while raising all three children, the two boys about the sloppiest I've ever known. You cooked, cleaned, advocated, worked actively in The League of Women Voters and went to every important school event.
Then you became a teacher. Sure, along the way after learning to drive, you let the car run out of oil and the engine seized. So what?
During these years I don't remember one lecture about character, right and wrong, the importance of kindness and humanity. You lived it. Your children saw it.
When you retired at 65 after over 20 years of teaching, you bought a small house in Florida on your own. Dad wasn't interested. You wanted warm winters. You'd earned them. Most women of your generation would never have taken the initiative. You didn't flinch.
My sister is one of the strongest, kindest and popular women I know. Genes made her beautiful and women like and respect her just as much as men. Her daughter, my beloved niece, your granddaughter, continues the tradition. Admired by her college friends, I have never known a harder working, more self-directed young woman.
All of your offspring share the values of humanity, morality and integrity that you and Dad imbued by your actions.
Most important of all, you made me feel loved.
I could write for hours about all you have meant to me these many years. I don't have to. You and I both know the reason. You were a communicator and I became one.
I've shared many of these sentiments with you in the past. But not enough. I know you are aware that your whole family loves you dearly, but don't think you've ever totally accepted and internalized the depth of feelings all that surround you hold.
Born in the 1920's, you lived for 89 years and set the example of how a woman could be strong yet tender, forceful yet flexible, self-directed, caring, generous and sharing. From observation of your actions I learned to respect and value the opposite sex.
This Valentine's Day is the first in many years we are not in physical proximity. To our family your vibrant spirit is with us... now and always. Mom, I love you! I should have said it more. Happy Valentine's Day!