The Duncan Banner

May 12, 2013

My mother is who I aspire to be

Jeff Kaley
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — No frantic rush early in the week to get a card in the mail that would arrive the day before the holiday.

No call to the florist in my hometown in Illinois to make sure a bouquet of the spring flowers she liked so much would be delivered before Sunday.

No late Sunday afternoon phone chat she would prolong by remembering things “I wanted to tell you.”

This is the oddest Mother’s Day of my life; the first Mother’s Day since my mom died on July 12, 2012. And I don’t know how well I’m handling it.

In fact, since Parkinson’s disease finally finished it’s cruel journey through her body and mind, I’ve found it difficult — virtually impossible, actually — to express my feelings about Mom with the written word.

Since I was in junior high, writing has been my release, and over the years I’ve written about my mother without restraint. That’s not been the case since she quietly exhaled a final breath nine months ago, and I can’t really grasp why.

So, with your indulgence, here’s a large portion of a column I wrote for Mother’s Day 2011. It was her favorite.


See, my mother is the most “Christian person” I’ve ever known, and although she was baptized into her faith long ago, she needn’t have been.

What I mean is this: Through her intellect, intuition and spirituality, Louise Kaley exemplifies the best in humanity; she reflects the characteristics of compassion, sympathy and empathy that bind us as a species, regardless of religious creed.

Mom’s not perfect, and she’d blush if I suggested she was. She’d say she has weaknesses and frailties, and rising above them is a continual struggle.

But what I love about Mom is: somewhere along the way she chose to accept the struggle; to take on the responsibility of being an example of goodness.

Her life’s built on a foundation of simple truths that are difficult to practice; that we should do unto others as we hope they would do unto us, that sacrifice is a virtue and that although much of life is gray, there are clearly defined lines of right and wrong.

Mom also can be resilient, a quality that’s been evident in the years since my father died.

Emotionally shaken by Dad’s death in 2005, she nonetheless decided to continue the retirement plan they worked out together. It meant selling a house in my hometown, leaving the community in which she spent most of her life and moving to a facility that offered both independent living and assisted care.

Before she could make the move, Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but she stayed true to the plan. She rented a flat in the facility’s independent living complex and tried to go about her new life.

A retired school teacher, she wanted to become a teacher’s aid. She was going to spend summer evenings watching kids play ball, as she’d done since my brother and I were small.

There were plans to work in a garden, do crochet projects, get involved in church activities, drive to our hometown to visit friends and family, and baby-sit some young cousins, who are the newest generation of the family to be influenced by “Aunt Weezie.”

Mom’s always been involved in independent study of topics that interest her — religion, history, Native Americans, genealogy, education, etc. It’s a never-stop-learning concept she passed along to her sons and to several generations of school children.

Mom’s retirement years and life after Dad seemed well considered and plotted, but the plan hardly had a chance to get in motion before dramatic changes began.

You see, Parkinson’s doesn’t care what you plan. Parkinson’s is a vile disease that demands total control — it wants your independence, your hopes and dreams, your memories and these frail packages called the human body.

Less than five years into a new life, last summer Mom had to move into full-time assisted care. Her time is now spent sitting, either in bed or a wheelchair, as the physical limitations of Parkinson’s cause what remains of her independence to sift away.

Yet, Mom continues to maintain as many of her daily routines as physically possible. She still reads, still learns and still puts the welfare of others ahead of her own. She still clings to the personal truths discovered over a lifetime, and her faith is rock solid. If she does ask “Why?”, she does so only in private.

My mother is still the person I aspire to be. No disease will ever change that.

580-255-5354, Ext. 172. Kaley is managing editor of Waurika News-Democrat