Dear Mom:

Born Judith Germaine, in April of 1941. I never did learn the story behind your middle name. A regret, for certain. After your mom (Grandma) passed away, we discovered that she had been writing her memoirs. It was such a wonderful gift for the family, and something we each cherish to this day. I am so grateful that her gift to us touched you in such a way that it motivated you to start writing your own memoirs. And just as with your mom, we didn’t find your memoirs until after your passing – and although you didn’t get very far in writing them, I cherish them so very much.

Growing up, your passion for all things school-related was evident, but until I read your memoirs, I never understood just how much you truly loved learning. You excelled in your school work, even spent your spare time playing school. You were student council president in high school, a cheerleader and often acted in plays. I guess then that it came as no surprise to your family when you became a teacher.

During the summers when I was young, my brother and I would accompany you as you taught summer school. We were your teacher’s aides, a job we were proud to have. You taught severely disabled children – in elementary school – and I’m here to tell you that that was one of the greatest gifts you ever gave me. It taught me patience, understanding, and acceptance. It didn’t occur to me until just now, but perhaps that experience was one of the driving forces behind me working for the Disabled Student Services department while in college – the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

Your career began teaching the severely disabled, and then moved to teaching the hearing impaired, and ultimately you taught the special education classes – all at the elementary level. You learned basic sign language and taught the alphabet to my brother and I when we were quite young. I, in turn, taught my cousin – and I can remember sitting through church signing to my cousin the entire time! We thought we were so cool because we could “talk” to each other without using our voices!! I loved being able to sign and eventually took American Sign Language classes while in college. At one point, I gave serious consideration to becoming an ASL translator.

No one would argue that you were a very giving, very generous person with a heart of gold. And philanthropic to the core – very active in a local philanthropic group, becoming both the local chapter president and the regional west coast president. It was your passion, and so it’s no surprise that philanthropic work is so very important to me as well. I had such a great teacher in the example you set.

Now that I’m a mom myself, I am in awe of you, my own mother. It’s funny how our appreciation for our mothers doesn’t fully bloom until we become one ourselves. I don’t know how you did it … you worked full time, yet came home and put a full dinner on the table, which we ate at the dinner table – together as a family – nearly every night of my life. And dad – bless his heart – was no help. He didn’t clean, cook, or run us around to our various lessons. It was all you. I believe my dad regrets that now, but times were different when I was young.

There is so much that I don’t know about you that I regret not learning before you passed away. Thankfully, I had an opportunity to learn bits and pieces through the memoirs you left behind – but I still have so many questions left unanswered.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with V that I learned about the tough time you had in your quest to have a baby. Several miscarriages, followed by a pregnancy that ended at six months when the baby suddenly died in the womb. Soon after, you became pregnant again and gave birth to my sister, Diana, who sadly died at 2 days old. You never talked about either. I can remember finding out about Diana after my dad’s mom passed away – I was in my 20’s. My grandmother kept a box full of newspaper clippings – wedding announcements, birth announcements, funeral announcements, etc. It was in that box that I found Diana’s death announcement. I remember being so very sad and wanting to visit her grave. But I couldn’t find the courage to ask you about her because I was afraid to upset you. I never did fully understand the pain, the grief, the depression that you must have suffered until, of course, becoming a mother myself. I regret not telling you how sorry I was to learn about Diana and the other baby. I regret not asking you questions about how you survived such heartache. How you found strength.

Looking back, even though I gave you a VERY tough time when I was a teenager, I know now that I was blessed with one of the most amazing moms on Earth. Many of the lessons you worked so hard to teach me didn’t become clear to me until after V was born, and I’m so very grateful to you for them. I regret that I never told you how amazing of a mother she were. I regret that I didn’t realize how amazing you were until after becoming a mom myself – and, by then, it was too late for you were gone. I know that you know … I do tell you every day and I know that you hear me. But I would give anything to be able to tell you face to face, to hug you tightly, to somehow show you my appreciation.

Mom, as my fourth Mother’s Day approaches I want to thank you. Thank you for the attention to details you paid as my mom. Thank you for the years of ballet lessons, of piano lessons, of life lessons. Thank you for all of the very special shopping excursions. Thank you for the unwavering support. Thank you for believing in me and expecting nothing less than what you knew I was capable of. Thank you for calling me each week just to check in. And thank you for understanding when I wasn’t in the mood to talk. Thank you for my love of cooking, which you developed in both my brother and I. Thank you for my love of travel. Thank you for instilling the importance of family. Thank you for your patience, especially during the 80’s when I know I tested it on a daily basis. Thank you teaching me the importance of an education. And how to respect money. And although I never did quite learn to “manage” dad the way you tried to teach me, thank you for teaching me that when it comes to him, “no” means maybe and “maybe” means yes!

Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I am so proud to be your daughter. Thank you.