Nov 4, 2010


Today is my mom's 65th birthday.  Over the years, I have written blog posts about my kids on their birthdays, and about my wife.  I have written several posts about Heather's grandparents.  But, as I went back through my posts, I realized that I have never actually written about my mom.  I've mentioned her, of course.  But she has never gotten her own posting.  That is an oversight that will be remedied right now.

Patricia Staples was born November 4, 1945 in West Palm Beach.  She was the third of five children born to George and Dorothy DeBay.  And she is an extraordinary woman.  Her life has never been easy.  She would probably be labelled unlucky in love by people who like tagging labels onto things. I know from personal experience that my father was not exactly a stellar selection.  They remained married until he died in 1999.  But their marriage was far from perfect, and our family was far from peaceful.  My dad was a quick tempered and intolerant man.  He was an alcoholic who, even though he quit drinking when I was a kid, always projected the stereotypical alcoholic behaviors.  Rage, irrational behavior, fighting.

It was all made worse when I was two and my mom became a Christian.  The added point of tension from differing worldviews created massive tension.  As a child and a teen, I always felt like the guys in Hurt Locker - trying to diffuse the bomb that was my dad.  He could go off at any instant and from any prodding.  You never knew what it was that would cause it.  It didn't have to make sense.  You could sit in the wrong chair, put the wrong sauce on your sandwich, say the wrong thing about the wrong athlete, not respond the right way.  It was like walking through a minefield.

Through it all, my mom was constant in where she stationed herself.  She was between us and him.  She was the human shield.  There were actually some times where literally she had to step in between him and one of us.  Most of the time, she placed herself emotionally in the middle.  She took the brunt of the blast.  I can't count the number of times that she stood there and diffused the explosion before it got to us.  It wasn't a passive action, either.  She would call him on his behavior.  Sometimes we would be like, "Shut up!  You're making it madder!"  But she didn't back down.  This little woman - a foot smaller than my dad and half his size - would stand right there and give it to him.

In addition to serving as a defense for us, she also was completely responsible to maintaining our home, coordinating the day to day activities, and teaching us.  When it came to issues of faith, she was the sole influence.  Actually, that isn't true.  She was the sole positive influence.  And she had to work extra hard to overcome the other point of view being presented.  She was a great example to us - both of strength in the face of adversity and of applying what you believe.  I have said many times that I would not trade my experiences growing up because it made me who I am.  I had to be sure about what I believed because I had to defend it every day to my dad.  It wasn't just a casual thing I decided to think one day.  It defined me - and it still does.  My mom exemplified this.

She also showed how important it was to always learn and read.  One of the most indelible images I have about my mother is her sitting in her chair at night reading.  She would have her Bible and a AW Tozer or Warren Wiersbe book in her lap.  She had a whole bookshelf full of books on the living room wall jammed full of books on theology, devotionals, and study guides.  She had topical Bibles, dictionaries, and concordances.  Seriously, her shelf was a loaded as most ministers' would be.  This example has stuck with me - and subsequently my kids.  We always have books around and are reading. I never depended on just what I learned in church.  I studied for myself.

Her generosity also was so amazing.  I remember all of the unbelievable things she did for us and our friends - just because she loved us.  She made me overalls when I was a little guy with Sesame Street characters on them.  In Kindergarten, she made cookies for my whole class that were made to look like each child.  She helped turn the garage into a rec center of sorts during our college years so we could have people come over.  Over the years, she made us toys, shirts, blankets, wall hangings to reflect things we loved.  And, one of the most amazing gifts she gave me was a full king size quilt for our bed - hand stitched and embroidered.

My mom also was our best friend.  I know there is the great debate over if parents should be their kids' friends.  I never wondered about her role.  Trust me.  She had no problem busting out the stick when we needed (which was frequently).  But she also was there when we needed her. We could talk to her about anything and everything.  I remember calling her when I was desperately homesick at camp in high school.  I spent many hours on the phone with her at college - dealing with frustration, loneliness, confusion, being mistreated.  When I first moved to Tampa, I distinctly remember calling her crying because I felt abandoned and wanted to leave.  Even now, during this new stage of life as a stay-at-home dad, I have relied on calling her and talking to her.  She has been an encouragement and source of strength.

We didn't always want that friendship.  I know that all of us went through periods where we pushed her away.  The phone conversations were short and terse.  We didn't want to talk and share.  And we certainly didn't want her advice.  And we could all be selfish jerks.  I remember her 45th birthday.  The kids were being so nasty to each other that she turned the car around and we went home.  She was so hurt.  It was a very special birthday to her (born in 1945, 45th birthday).  And we ruined it by being pains in the butt.  I would like to say that it was the last or only time that behavior happened.  But it wasn't.  Over the years, I have hurt her in so many ways.  But, every time I come back, she is right there.  That has taught me about God, as well.  He is willing to forgive and repair our relationship.  He never stops loving us.  My mom demonstrated that constantly.

I know that I am the man I am because of the mom she was.  I can never thank her enough for her example, her love, her teaching, her strength, her protection, her forgiveness.  Now I get the joy of watching my kids experience all of those things.  Gabe today was crying because he wanted to go see her today instead of tomorrow.  The kids sang happy birthday to her on the phone today with such glee and love.  They adore her and love their time with her.  We only wish it could be more often.  She isn't the same physically.  Her many health issues have robbed her of her ability to be as creative or involved. She is constant pain and distress.  But she still makes cookies with the kids when they come see her.  Or she paints with them or makes volcanoes.  That same person is there, reflecting God and radiating love.  It just is imprisoned by the frail body.

So, I would like to wish her a very happy 65th birthday.  Mom, thank you so much for being who you are.  Thank you for sacrificing for us, for protecting us, for teaching and guiding and disciplining us.  Thank you for loving us and praying for us.  Thank you for introducing us to God and for demonstrating how to live a life pleasing to Him.  Thank you for loving my wife and my kids.  Thank you for the many hours of phone calls.  Thank you for shedding tears with me and talking me off the proverbial ledge.  It has been a blessing to be your son.

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