Saturday, September 01, 2007

Happy 82nd Birthday, Mom!


Today is my dear Mother's 82nd Birthday. My mother is an amazing woman. Born in St. Martinville, Louisiana to French parents who had both emigrated from France into Canada and then south to be part of the large French Speaking Acadian community that came to be known as 'Acadians' or 'Cajuns.'

As one of 9 children, and the very youngest, my mother ended up being raised by my incredibly hardworking maternal Grandmother, who took in laundry to raise her children alone, in their Bayou Teche home.

My mother learned to speak English when she began school, having only spoken French until then. In her teens, she was given a choice of a penpal and selected a young man from Alaska. His cousin, my dad, became the final choice for a penpal, and the day came when they met, fell in love, married and raised 5 children of their own.

Three of us were born in Louisiana, two of us in Alaska, but we spent our lives in Alaska as part of a well-known pioneer family. My mother worked hard to raise 5 children under harsh and primitive conditions and we did well in our Alaskan home.

My mother survived having children almost die, die and be brought to life, our house burn to the ground, one of my father's brothers dying in WWII, and another dying while moose hunting up the Taku River. Every four years, our family,with five children, would climb into our station wagon and spend three weeks driving down the AlCan Highway, through the 'lower 48" to visit her family in Louisiana.

Many mishaps would occur along the way. One trip, my dad had to fix 14 flat tires, hitchhiking with semi trucks to the nearest Canadian gas station to have a tire repaired. We did this, many, many times. It was a challenging life, but a very good one and we never lacked for anything no matter how poor we might have seemed to others, our lives were rich with love and adventures.

My mother survived the over overwhelming of our mountain life, narrow roads, steep drop offs and long travel conditions on road, ferries, a road again from our landlocked life in the Juneau area. She learned to do, redo and make do and did it over and over for all five of us, children.

When she thought her life had finally gotten easier, all of us surviving broken bones, illnesses without adequate medical care, the burning down of our house...hard times were still to come. In her seventies, a dr. in Juneau discovered she had a severe case of 3B inflammatory breast cancer. Cancer only goes as high as 4 ,which is certain death, and inflammatory is the worst kind that there is. Not knowing if there was any real hope at all, they sent her south to Seattle, where living out of a hotel was not only hard but expensive and my mother is legally blind and a severe diabetic.

So, instead, she came to live with me in Oregon for 9 months, along with my father, and survived, chemo, surgery and radiation. She was amazing through all of it, when others were convinced she would not go through with it, nor survive....she did it all. Now battling, that which we will all battle some day...increasing memory loss and the onset of Alzheimer's...she is still the best story teller any of us will ever meet in this lifetime, and a dear person with a loving and generous heart.

In honor of her birthday, her victory over breast cancer and the royalty amongst all women that she is...I offer up in her honor these gifts....a Pink Ribbon Fleece blanket to wrap up in, a royal cape and crown, and a photo birthday card to remind her that she is as beautiful today, as she ever was in her youth.
Happy Birthday, Mom...I love you, dearly.

Love, Michele

12 comments:

  1. What a wonderful tribute to your mother whose journey through life sounds like it would be a fascinating book. Thank you for sharing even a small glimpse of her life, and happy birthday to her.

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  2. Happy Birthday to your mom! People of that age have experienced and weathered so much. I feel humbled by what she and others her age have gone through and survived. I think we of the younger generation (ha! I'm 52!) and even younger generations need to remember not to throw in the towel when things don't go our way. Tell your mom thanks for teaching you (and us) that lesson.

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  3. Wishing a very happy birthday to your mother. She has survived a lot in her life and she is an inspiration to all of us.

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  4. Michele, Happy Birthday to your mother, who has been through a lot, but has persevered. She sounds so generous, giving and loving and it seems from reading your blog you have inherited her qualities too. I know that is just a glimpse, what we read here, but thank you so much for sharing how your mother (along with your father)has been such an inspiration! Happy Birthday from a relatively new blogger!

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  5. Happy birthday mom! What a wonderful tribute to her and her life. The crown is a perfect present for her.

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  6. What a great tribute to your mom. She certainly sounds like a great lady. Our Moms share the same birthday Sept 1. Alaska is the one place I haven't been that I would love to go. Enjoy your family while you are there.

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  7. An exceptional post about your mother. Happy Birthday wishes to her.

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  8. What a lovely tribute to your Mom! Thank you for sharing it. What a rich heritage you have! These posts not only have been finely written, they have been a treasure that I look forward to each day. Happy Birthday to your Mom!

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  9. What a sweet tribute to your Mom. She is a special lady indeed. I guess I need to think twice before I start whining about my little annoyances.

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  10. Michele, this is such a sweet and tender tribute that means all the more coming from her own dear daughter. You are such a blessing to so many-- your choice of gifts for this special lady is a stellar example of your kind, loving heart. Happy Birthday, Mom!

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  11. What a wonderful tribute! And a wonderful life. Just like Laura Ingalls Wilder - you were rich with all the things that really matter.

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  12. Very touching post. What a heritage! My grandmother was raised in Alberta and I heard lots of similar stories from her, but I think yours takes the cake. Not that there is a contest...Sending good vibes your way!

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.