Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My Mum: a woman of calibre

(If you don't know the backstory to this particular phrase, see here).

My Mum has never earnt a six-figure salary in her life. There would be many years where she wouldn't have earned a five-figure one, for that matter.

My Mum doesn't have a university degree, doesn't have an impressive job title, and doesn't work in a big-ticket profession.

My Mum's not a lawyer, or an accountant, or a businessperson. She's not a doctor either, although she would've liked to have been and would have been smart enough to do it, if the opportunities had been open to her.

My Mum's not a great orator, or an intellectual giant (which is not to say she's not intelligent - she is, but it's not a rarifed form of smarts).

But my Mum is a woman of exceptional calibre.

My Mum left her family home when she was 16 and made her own way in the world.

My Mum completed her high school certificate at night school while vomitously pregnant with me.

My Mum moved heaven and earth to take care of my younger brother, born severely disabled from hydrocephalus, at home. For the eight years of his life, she was his devoted and untiring nurse, his advocate, his fierce protector.

She fought her local council to get home help to assist with all the other things she couldn't do because of his disabilities. She took him to every specialist and therapist known to man and she worked, all the time, to make his short life as happy and fulfilling as it could be.

She did all this without half the social and medical services available today. She did all this by drawing deeply on her inner reserves, her faith and her strength.

My Mum experienced the worst thing that can happen to a parent - losing their child - and despite being nearly crushed by grief, my Mum picked herself up and kept going for her other two children and her husband and family.

My Mum became a skilled and empathetic integration aide in kindergartens and primary schools, helping children be part of mainstream schooling and forming lifelong bonds with many of them. I have a photo in my drawer of her just a  couple of years ago, the guest of honour at the 21st birthday of one of her kids who she worked with from his prep year to grade 5.

My Mum has done so much work within her community, quietly, lovingly, and effectively. She's sat by parents' sides as they struggle to cope with diagnoses or family trauma. She's fostered children in need and helped reunite families. She's established and for many years ran a wildly popular community playgroup. She's taught Sunday School and provided respite care and been a mentor in a program that works with kids at risk.

My Mum has been the business force behind the family veterinary practice (my Dad is a vet), doing the bookwork, admin and planning tirelessly for over 35 years now. She's also worked part time as a vet nurse for most of those years. This is a successful business that makes a financial contribution to the community, in case that's of interest to the sort of people who judge calibre in dollar terms only.

My Mum is a warm, loving mother, wife and grandmother. She has always loved us all to distraction, sometimes more than any of us could reasonably expect. Unconditional love has a face, to me, and it's hers.

So do not you EVER say, or imply, that my Mum is anything other than a woman of the highest possible calibre. Her calibre is made manifest in the lives she has touched and the life she has lived, in her kindness, her committment, her strength, her endurance. Her qualification level and how much damn money she earns has NOTHING to do with it.

I love you, Mum.

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