Mom and I had one thing that we routinely did together. We went to the library. Every three weeks, on Saturday morning, we would gather our books to return and spend an hour or so browsing. We did have distinctly different tastes, but from the time I was little and had my very first library card (a rite of passage more memorable to me than even learning to drive), Mom was always telling me to “broaden my horizons” and stop picking from the same section every time. This is undoubtedly how I ended up reading Stephen King as a 13-year-old. Of course, I turned that around on her when I was older and she stuck to just a few fiction shelves. I don't know if Danielle Steel and Mary Higgins Clark had a more dedicated reader!
Mom was right, though. If there is a lesson to learn from her, it is that. Broaden your horizons. Mom was nineteen when she joined the Navy, to “see the world” as she used to say. And she did. She got to go to Florida and Texas and she worked in the Pentagon – how many little girls from Long Island, New York in the sixties dreamt they might be able to do THAT one day? Because she was brave, and believed she should broaden her own horizons, she got to go to Rota, Spain and meet my dad. The Irish Protestant from New York and the Irish Catholic from Kansas City, who might never have crossed paths otherwise. Broaden your horizons, indeed!
Even Mom's illness was one that imparted that lesson, really. It is a cliché – try new things, do what you love, be the person you never thought you could be. My mom believed that and she taught it to us all with her actions. She didn't believe in “can't.” I think the best proof of that is my brother Joe – when the doctors said he wouldn't walk, or ride a bike, and the teachers said he had to go to special classes, Mom said the exact opposite, and today he drives a car and is a published writer working on his masters in Early American History. It worked on all four of us – there is no better explanation for how we turned out, and I can only hope that my own child will have half of Mom's gumption and spirit.
Mom is in that place now where “can't” doesn't exist. The horizon there is so wide and so deep that there are endless opportunities to discover what it means. Given that it was who she was in life, I can only be grateful for the joy of knowing she is with the One who made that possible.