Small Wonders: The testimony of all moms

I'd love to tell the story of your mother today. But I don't know her. So, I'll tell you about mine. She's a pretty typical mom.

Darlene is a wife, career educator, retiree, volunteer and the epitome of a grandmother. She's a mom in the truest sense of the word.

The only child to Cecil and Wilhemina, Darlene was born during the Great Depression. Her parents struggled to make sure their daughter would have more than they did. They sent her to college where she became a teacher, the only job she ever wanted. On schedule, she fell in love, got married, had children and supported her husband through the Air Force to medical school to practicing surgeon. This was the story of so many in her generation.

But times change.

With four young children at home, her marriage ended. When life deals you that blow, you've got to choose between folding and marching on; between the lifelong stain of bitterness and the hopeful optimism in knowing that all things work out right in the end. Thankfully, she chose the latter.

On the modest salary of an elementary school teacher, she bought a home in the hills of Glendale. Her job allowed her the time to be there as much as possible for her kids, delivering them to various schools and sundry activities each day. A good dinner was on the table every night. Well, it was good most nights.

She remarried, and her new husband brought three kids of his own. Family portraits show an expansive, smiling clan adorned in the polyester, huge lapels and beehive hairdos of the '70s. Certainly there were smiles and good times for this extended family. But “The Brady Bunch” it was not.

In the early years of her second marriage, Darlene's father — her hero — would be taken from her by cancer at the young age of 68. He was her rock and perhaps the sole reason she has the tender heart she does. Even today, this woman in her late 70s becomes a little girl — her eyes alight and face beaming — when she talks about a man she still calls “daddy.”

Soon after, Darlene herself would be stricken with cancer. And again, there was a choice to be made.

I recall visiting her in the hospital the day of her diagnosis. She was surrounded by lady friends, all were crying. Yet through those fearful tears she was laughing, leading the others with an “oh hell, now this!” attitude — like she'd caught a cold before she was supposed to go on vacation.

And then there are the kids. If being a parent is taking one's own heart out of your body and placing it in another person, Darlene should be on life support.

The list of her children's transgressions is long. Too many late-night calls that chill your blood before you've even answered the phone. Totaled cars and more legal issues than she'd care to remember; emergency room visits to sew up bleeding skulls and set broken limbs. School discipline issues, dropouts and runaways; mental illnesses and disorders. Divorce, drug abuse, alcoholism, dependency and co-dependency.

She's seen her children and stepchildren battle addiction, depression, demons and each other. She's seen them become prodigals, paupers and widows.

Yet, she put her head down and got through every trial focused on one thing: get to tomorrow.

Divorce: get to tomorrow.

Cancer: get to tomorrow.

Addiction: get to tomorrow.

Death: get to tomorrow.

A mother lives through her children, aching and suffering for them as they go through their struggles, wishing she could take their burdens upon herself. She watches helplessly as her own heart takes blow upon blow, knowing better but unable to solve the problems that her babies create for themselves. I imagine it's a bit how God feels for us.

Reflecting on childhood from the vantage of time means tearing the surface off and exposing what lies beneath. It can be shocking to see the rawness, the nakedness of things hidden from view, shattering the protective image we've created for ourselves.

I thought I had a perfectly normal childhood. And I was right.

As children, we don't know what was suffered on our behalf. And this is the testimony of a mother. She protects us from the fearful and forbidding things in life. She may not catch us every time we fall, but she covers us in ways we never knew. She tells you everything is going to be all right, even when she's unsure herself. And we trust her.

This isn't just the story of my mom, but all moms.

Happy Mother's Day. And thank you.

PATRICK CANEDAY can be reached on Facebook and at Read more at

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World