The Duncan Banner

May 11, 2014

I made it this far because Mom persevered

Jeff Kaley
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — Proving there is balance in the cosmos and a creator with a sense of humor, I was raised by the two finest people I’ve ever known.

Louise and Vaughn Kaley weren’t remarkable people just because they’re my mom and dad; they were unique because I’ve spent almost 63 years on the planet and have never discovered two better human beings.

I could ramble about my dad for days. His impact on my life and personality are indisputable, although I did spend a few years trying to dispute it; back when I was on the “search for self,” a journey some of us are compelled to take.

But today is Mother’s Day, and my thoughts are on the woman who brought me into the world, and played the key role in ensuring I’d get this far down the line.

Over the years, I’ve wondered what it must have been like for her surviving in a family with three testosterone-pushing males; all of whom heard their own drummer, all of whom wanted things their way.

(Mom called this trait “Kaley arrogance.” However, Dad used to point out — and my brother and I concur — most of the males on her side of the family also had or have the same affliction!)

I’ve wondered where she found the patience to deal with an oldest son who couldn’t sit still (there was no Ritalin in the 1950s); a child who inherited her sense of wonder and knowing, but who took a while understanding the importance of moderation; a kid who heard the warning, “Don’t touch that hot oven,” but he had to touch it just to find out how hot it was or how much heat he could take.

As a free-spirited young’un, I wasn’t le enfant terrible or a kid you’d look at and think, “Ah, there’s the next Charlie Manson.” However, I was, uh, precocious, and raising me was no day at the beach.

It had to have been frustrating for her, scary at times, but Mom persevered. And eventually, I shaped up — a little, at least.

My mother was one of those self-giving people who hold families and societies together. She became devoted to my father when they were high school kids in the ’40s, and she mastered the art of making sure things got done, while letting Dad feel like it was all his idea.

Their life together changed dramatically when Dad had a severe heart attack at age 52, but again, she persevered. Determined to keep my father at her side for as long as possible, she laid out lifestyle changes and a game plan that resulted in them spending another 23 years together.

The worst day of her life came on March 1, 2005, when things she couldn’t control finally got the best of Dad.

Mom never fully recovered from his passing, but she persevered.

My Mom believed the family is the foundation of society. Consequently, it was disappointing her sons and daughters-in-law weren’t at arm’s reach for many years; that she wasn’t close by to lend a hand while her three grandsons became men.

She never really adjusted as her extended family that was once so tightly-bound began spreading around the world in the 1960s and ’70s. Many times she lamented, “I liked it when everybody lived within a few hours of one another.”

My mother was structured, ordered and goal-oriented. Those traits allowed her to stay home and raise her sons until they were in elementary school, then she started college, obtained a degree and spent 32 years teaching in public schools.

Perhaps the greatest lessons Mom taught were reflections of her deep spirituality.

My mother’s boundaries of right and wrong had some flexibility. She was a realist, but not a cynic; an idealist, but not a babe in the woods. She wanted to believe everyone is basically good, but she realized evil does exist.

Her faith was defined by sacrifice and a simple universal truth: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Essential goodness is what made Mom a beloved figure in my family and in the Illinois community where she lived most of her 80 years.

I can go on and on, but I’ll never say all the things that should be said about this woman I was fortunate enough to have as a guide and example for 60 years, and who has remained a vibrant presence in my life since her death in July 2012.

Mom, thanks for persevering and for being my mother. I love you dearly, and I’ll always be your boy.