She spent her formative years in the convent to escape a rough home environment, and became a nun.
She left the convent in her early 20's and worked three jobs, including running an EKG machines, running errands for a lady in exchange for a room near her college, and working in a cafeteria at the local University where I eventually went to medical school. These jobs, in addition to a scholarship, helped put her through nursing school.
She met my Dad while dishing up grubby fare in the cafeteria line. He was in medical school. She likes to joke that she divorced God to marry my Dad, but really the timing wasn't right. When she came down to Arkansas from the convent in New York to visit her Dad (she quickly discovered in her 20's that he hadn't changed much in being able to offer her support), she couldn't get bus fare back to New York, and never got an answer when she wrote them for help. So she wrote to a local college instead, detailing her desire to be a nurse, and they hooked her up with the aforementioned jobs.
After going through nursing school, she took various jobs including helping organize and run free clinics, becoming the director of nursing at the Health Department, getting her masters in Public Health, doing school nursing, and eventually volunteering her skills in orphanages in Russia and Thailand. Did I mention I am the oldest of four children? My sister has her P.A. in anesthesia, my brother has a Ph.D. in food science, and my youngest brother is finishing law school at the top of his class. Needless to say, none of us were neglected.
Today she is a proud grandmother of four and devotes her time volunteering and traveling around the country visiting her four kids and grandchildren. She also keeps my Dad in line - he is still working as a neonatologist and when she leaves town all the flowers in the house die, the food pantry becomes appallingly stark, and he becomes a recluse (no offense, Dad!). We call her Babcia, the Polish word for grandmother.
I hope I am half the Mom to my kids as she is to all of us, and can touch half as many lives as she has throughout hers - I would then be more than whole.
Happy Mother's Day to all!