Today is my mom’s 62nd birthday.
She really wanted to be loved and the thought of leaving BYU unmarried was unthinkable. She met my charimatic looker of a dad and they got married right after they graduated. He was bi-polar and I think the marriage only took a year or so to reveal the complications of his mental illness.
It’s hard to hold a job being both manic and depressive and it’s hard to show love to others when you’re that way too. They plunged deeper and deeper into debt, my mom grew even more unloved, and they had more and more children. My dad hated himself, my mom was excruciatingly lonely and we were poor problem kids.
I can never remember the ins and outs of their financial lives, but I know they were in pretty deep doo-doo. Cops pounded on our door one night and took my dad away because of an unkept financial commitment. We went to the Bishop’s Storehouse, ate off the free lunch program at school, shopped DI and lived off of the often anonymous help of our ward.
All told, they had 7 kids, 17 years of marriage, thousands and thousands of dollars of debt, and years of plagues from mental illness, when my mom finally kicked him out.
My mom and dad had pretty near wrecked themselves. I think my mom must have believed herself completely worthless and unlovable,with any sound money skills gone defunct. But she went back to school and got certified as a teacher and started teaching. She found every program that would help her family get away from the wreckage and she just plodded forward. Plodded. Plodded. Plodded.
She had a few mishaps, a bad marriage to a crazy guy named Terry, but she’s only moved forward financially. She’s set to retire in a few years and when she does, she’s all set. She’s paid off all the financial obligations from my dad and saved like a maniac for her future. She’s one of the best special ed teachers in Oklahoma and can teach pretty much anyone to read no matter what their disability.
And then there’s us. Almost all of us have graduated from college and have advanced degrees. Five of us are married in the temple to wonderfully stable and good people. All seven of us have served missions. We’re all financially stable and responsible. No one’s on drugs, in jail, hunted by creditors. My brothers are all responsive and involved dads. We all still care about each other. We’ve made peace with my dad, who died four years after the divorce and we love our mother.
This is a miracle to me. Given the circumstance, my mom shouldn’t have been able to surface from that financial ruin. She shouldn’t have been able to survive the emotional and psychological fallout of her life. We shouldn’t be as happy and healthy as we are. We should be stuck in unhealthy relationships, poor, and troubled.
My faith moves constantly. Is the Church true? Was Joseph Smith inspired by God? Is the Church led by a higher power today? Is there a God? Maybe Jesus didn’t even exist. Maybe religion is all made up. I’ve felt it all. I’ve thought of explanations for it all, except that I can’t explain my mom. I cannot explain how she came to be the woman that she is.
I am certain that power from herself, mixed with power from God, mixed with power from the Atonement, mixed with the structure and aid of the Church made my mom more than she was, more than she is. All that power has made our family more than it should have been.
And it means I’ve witnessed a miracle.