Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Tribute of Sorts

My mother, Lucy, was born of a generation that defined success and accomplishment much differently than most women would today. A woman's worth was measured by how clean her house was, how well-mannered her children were, and most importantly how many grandchildren she had. If a woman was lucky enough to live to see great grandchildren, she was envied and respected not only by her family, friends, and neighbors but by her church congregation as well. Grandchildren gave one status, especially among other women.

My mom took a relatively small measure of pride in my graduating from college and even less so when I got my Master's degree. She believed that higher education was more or less a waste of time and money for women. But when I gave her a granddaughter, her pride in me grew exponentially. And her pride in her granddaughter knew no limits. When 5 years later I gave birth to a son, there was no longer anything I could do wrong in her eyes. And she'd brag about her granddaughter and grandson to anyone who'd listen every chance she got.

As divorce became more socially acceptable and eventually common, women in the work force became more common too. Over the years my mom began to see the value and need for women to have a good education. In her later years she took real pride in the achievements of her grandchildren, not only academically but in music and sports as well. If it was possible for anyone to be more proud of my children than I was, she would have been that person.

And so today I write a tribute to my mother (probably the first of many) that may seem a little weird. On the surface it may sound like any mom bragging about her children. But it is really a tribute to my mom, their grandma, who would have been doing the bragging herself if she were here today to do it. She would want the world to know about her wonderful grandchildren and in her own mind her self worth would have increased as a result of their accomplishments. She would have been bursting with pride this weekend as we celebrated their achievements. I only wish she could have been with us a little while longer and joined in our celebration.

Today Lucy's granddaughter graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Honor's College at Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelor's degree, double majoring in Mathematics and English (with a concentration in Journalism) and a minor in Linguistics. In addition to the degree conferred upon her she's been given a full scholarship for a Master's degree in Mathematics, a graduate assistant position, and an additional very generous scholarship. You did well by your granddaughter, Lucy.

Yesterday, Lucy's grandson received a championship trophy for being on the winning team of the local recreational basketball league. It was the first time he played an organized sport at that level. He worked hard and made a good contribution to the team's success. Lucy would have been pleased as punch that he spent the time and effort working himself physically instead of sitting on the couch playing video games. She would have been in the stands cheering for him out on the court if she only could. And she would have proudly displayed a picture of him with his trophy in hand on her mantle. This one's for you, Lucy.

Lucy played a big part in the lives of her grandchildren. She spent countless hours with them over the years, reading, teaching, playing, and praying. A good bit of their successes are attributable to her efforts. She may not have had a large number of grandchildren but the ones she had are real winners.

Their success is your success, mom. Take a bow. [applause]