When I think of strong, independent women I admire, the first one who comes to mind is my mother, Lena Loy Jack. When I think of the things she has accomplished in her life, especially considering what she has had to overcome, I am amazed.
A few weeks ago, I received a voicemail from Mom saying that she was on her way from Manassa to Alamosa for her doctor’s appointment, and that her van had overheated. I tried to return her call, but she didn’t answer so I called my brother-in-law and started driving to find her.
In my mind, I saw my poor mother stuck on the side of the road waiting for me to rescue. In reality, she had gotten a ride and had made it to her doctor’s appointment on time. I shouldn’t have been surprised – Mom always finds a way to do things herself. Okay, she did get some help from the family friend who noticed the van stopped on the side of the road, but the point is, she didn’t wait for me to rescue her.
When she was little, Mom was diagnosed with a slight heart murmur, so she grew up being told what she couldn’t do. Then she began proving to people that they were wrong by doing it. For a variety of reasons, she didn’t complete high school. That didn’t stop her from finding a career that she enjoyed, though.
During the Korean War, Mom moved from the Valley while Dad served as a transport driver at a training base. She got a job as a nurse’s aide, and since she loved children, worked her way into the maternity ward of a hospital. She knew what she wanted to do, and then found a way to do it.
Like most independent women, Mom didn’t really appreciate her own inner strength. She accomplished amazing things, and would then be surprised to learn that people were impressed by what she had done. While I was going to college, I asked her why she had never gotten her GED and talked her into taking the test. She passed, got her diploma, and started signing up for college classes.
After a few years, her college counselors started telling her what classes she needed to take so that she could get her degree, and she quit going. “I just wanted to learn,” she explained. “I didn’t want to get a degree!”
Mom was afraid to fly until, when I was 21, we almost lost her. She was rushed to Denver on the Flight for Life helicopter, where she was told that her chances for survival were slim. She not only stubbornly held on, but decided that if she could survive that flight, she could handle others and began flying out to see friends and relatives in other states.
There are numerous other stories I could tell about how Mom has overcome obstacles to accomplish her goals, but there is another powerful lesson that I’ve learned from her. She has not only shown me how to love and appreciate strong, independent women – she has taught me the value of partnership in relationships.
I remember Dad saying many times, “When I got married, I let my wife know who wears the pants in our family – and they look pretty good on her, too!”
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Mom was the head of our family, but I wouldn’t say that about Dad. They have always been true partners, sharing in responsibility and working together through whatever trials they faced.
On occasion, when I’m in a discussion with someone about the importance of the man being the head of the household, I’ll always ask, “Why?”
“Well, if both the husband and wife disagree, someone has to be in charge to make the final decision.”
And again, I’ll ask, “Why?”
After all, aren’t both the husband and wife adults who are capable of making their own decisions and choices, and when they disagree, shouldn’t they be able to find a way to reach a compromise? If two people who love each other enough to share their lives together can’t accomplish that, what hope do we have?
I won’t say that Mom and Dad always agreed on everything. They are both pretty strong-willed and independent. But I will say that I can’t think of anything they disagreed on.
They worked it out, and stood together in the decisions they made. And that’s another valuable lesson I’ve learned. Marriage shouldn’t be a declaration of ownership; it should be an affirmation of affection and partnership.