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Goodbye Mom

July 17, 2006 Uncategorized 9 Comments

Two weeks ago today was the memorial service for my mom who passed away a few days earlier at age 75. I have some comfort knowing she is in a better place as she had battled health problems for the better part of 50 years.

Most of us are products of our parents, taking on some or all of their good qualities and bad. I’m no exception. One of the things my mom instilled in me from an early age is to treat others as you’d expect to be treated. This originated, I believe, from her very strict Mennonite upbringing. Related to this was to speak up when wronged. I can recall numerous times where my mom would make sure we were all treated right by others. As I go through life and write what I do here I keep these values in mind. Thank you mom for these gifts.

We grew up in a typical 1960s suburban house in Oklahoma City but my mom always encouraged me to explore the older areas of OKC. When I moved to St. Louis in 1990 she and my father were curious to see the various neighborhoods, enjoying their visits to Old North St. Louis when I lived there. On Mother’s Day 2002 I took my parents through a smelly, derelict and condemned building. They didn’t discourage me from buying it and doing the rehab, which is still ongoing.

My earliest urban memory was one of the numerous times my mom was in the hospital. I must have only been 3 or 4 at the time but I recall the hospital was on the edge of downtown Oklahoma City which seemed quite big to me. I remember walking with my father and brother to an IHOP nearby, still in shock seeing my mom in the recovery room. It turns out that hospital is just blocks from the downtown OKC hospital where I was born. Seems fitting I was born in a downtown hospital. One of my brothers prefers new suburban housing was born in what was at the time, a new suburban hospital. Hmmmm…

Another lesson learned from my mom is that of fiscal prudence. My close friends will tell you I am an impulsive shopper and they’d be right. But, my mom did make me believe a couple of things about the dollar (even if I don’t always apply them to my personal life). First, don’t spend it unless you’ve got it and then be very sure you spend it wisely. Plan for the future, don’t buy something just because it looks great now. In the political world of cities I think we go for the quick solution, that which has rewards before the next election.

My mom’s generation was largely responsible for many mistakes in our cities. And my parents did buy a new house in the suburbs in the 60s but that was only after they tried to buy houses in the older part of town but couldn’t do so at a reasonable cost. My father, you see, is a carpenter and he was able to build a new house for less than the cost to renovate a similar size house. While true in the 60s in their situation I don’t think that is true any longer. Still, I didn’t see them buying into the same beliefs as their contemporaries of the time.

This generation was quick to pull their kids from newly integrated schools, but not my parents. My mom’s Mennonite background also shown through when it came to different races, she viewed everyone as human and judged others only by their actions. A few years ago I was talking with my mom about when she was a waitress at Pop Hick’s in Clinton Oklahoma, a classic and legendary Route 66 diner. She along with her older sister and one of my dad’s sisters all worked there in the heyday of the 1950s but at a time when blacks didn’t eat up front. The cooks and customers were her friends. This would be the case over the next 20-25 years as she worked in different restaurants with people of all races. I have my mom to thank for my very open view of all ethnic backgrounds.

My mom was also accepting of my being gay. In fact, she knew long before I did. When I was just 16 she told me she and some of her co-workers would take in drag shows back in the 70s after work. That was quite a shock as I hadn’t known my mom to be a party person. My brother Rick, 17 years older than me, recalls a mom that would drive fast down Route 66 with the windows open, music loud and playing an air guitar. The lesson here is not to judge someone solely on how you might know them.

Urban Review was started a month after my father had a major heart attack in October 2004, with writing serving as excellent therapy. Thankfully his recovery has been quite remarkable. Urban Review will again serve as therapy as I come to grips with the loss of my mom. My mother faced horrific pain throughout much of her adult life yet she managed to go on until her body could no longer. I intend to take that strength as I face obstacles and challenges in my own life.

Goodbye mom.

– Steve

Thank you for indulging me in this personal moment. I appreciate all your sympathies and condolences.

 

Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. STLgasm says:

    Steve,
    Beautiful anecdote. So sorry to hear of your loss. No doubt you have made your mom very proud. Thanks for all that you do for our city.

     
  2. Expat says:

    Steve, Thanks for writing about your mother. No doubt, she helped form the good person that you are. The work you do to improve the city and, therefore, the lives of others is a tribute to her.

     
  3. Jim Zavist says:

    Great, positive obituary. It’s tough losing someone you love, but it’s also important to celebrate the things that made them wonderful. My condolences.

     
  4. travis reems says:

    Steve,

    Our mothers sound very similar, or maybe there is just a quality that all mothers possess. Your story brought a tear to my eye. I’m very sorry for your loss.

     
  5. newsteve says:

    Steve, I have been thinking about you since I heard about your mother’s passing. I hope you and your family are coping well. Thank you for sharing a little about your mom with us – Personally, it raised my spirits, as my mother is now facing some difficult health problems, it helped me focus on the wonderful things she has offered to me and the community, as opposed to the difficult times we are facing now. Thanks.

     
  6. jason says:

    Steve,
    So sorry to hear about your mom. Sounds like she was a remarkable woman. You write a very nice rememberance.
    -> jason

     
  7. gedward says:

    Steve,

    Your mom sounded like a great woman. Take comfort in the memories you have. I too lost my own mom last year and, like you, I too found that a brief stroll down memory lane via a similar posting indeed offered a bit of therapy.

     
  8. Margie says:

    I am very sorry about your loss.

    I happened across your posting after doing a search for condemned buildings in Oklahoma City. It is a touching memory that I am glad I found.

    I grew up here in Oklahoma City, and after living many places have recently returned. I lived for awhile in Columbia and tried hard to find an old apartment in St. Louis, before failing and moving.

    I love the downtown area there, and would still love to live in an old duplex. It is really a state of being to reclaim something from another era.

     
  9. STLbiggestfan says:

    Steve,

    I found the tribute to your mother very heartwarming, having seen it right after reading your earlier post about her Mennonite upbringing, as well as some of your family’s history. I think the beauty of a close relationship is its ability to evolve as we do, weathering the challenges of life to become even more meaningful across time and space. You obviously cared for your mom a great deal and she for you. Thanks for sharing so much of your life with us.

     

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