Brickner: Lessons from my mother
Columnist Joan Brickner writes, "Rather than spout platitudes, 'thoughts and prayers,' she translated words into action."
Oddly enough, politicians have taught me to appreciate my mother more than I already had. I doubt, however, that the politicians, especially on the right, would be pleased with my reasoning.
Thankfully, voters largely silenced the authoritarians and the extremists who promoted lies and conspiracies. Knowing that most politicians lie, I am still disappointed by the level of dishonesty I witnessed.
Some celebrated “the end justifies the means” mentality of the Supreme Court. Politicians supported justices who lied, saying they would not tamper with Roe v. Wade; their “promises” collapsed at the first opportunity. They taught me not to trust them.
In the recent election, according to the Republicans, the main issues - important ones - were inflation, crime and immigration. Yet, prior to the election, most refused to support the Inflation Reduction Act. And, exactly one day after securing the House, they made a hard pivot to… the president’s son Hunter Biden and his laptop. There’s talk of impeaching President Biden and investigating the “unfair” treatment of January 6 rioters, these “political prisoners.” No mention of inflation or crime. Bait and switch, marinated in vengeance.
My late mother appears in stark contrast. I have plenty of memories, but this Thanksgiving I focus on her integrity – honesty, consistency.
I never knew my mother to lie. Ever. Not to me or to anyone. She helped my father in real estate sales and rentals, while selling used pianos. She never lied or deceived while working in a field where dishonesty are commonplace. No bait and switch.
Integrity was in her faith. How many times did I hear her praying around the house, even as she tidied up. Not disturbed when prayer was taken out of the schools, she instead would take a minute to pray over me before I walked out the door. Home and church were spiritual sources, not schools. And, moments before her death, in the half-bath of our home, she was praying, “Lord, if I have done anything wrong, forgive me.” Her faith was private and real, not a public show.
Which gets me to another point. She and my father celebrated education and reading. Coming from a legalistic church that forbid dancing, drinking and even toy guns, it is perhaps surprising how much they encouraged us to study at “secular” schools. When Mama saw I was a reader, she bought a boxed set of Jane Austen novels at an estate sale. She drove my sister across town in Detroit to get tutoring for writing and sacrificed for our music lessons. Learning was exemplified in her own life. An average student in high school, Mama faithfully subscribed to the Wall Street Journal and U.S. News and World Report. Education helped make us whole.
Rather than spout platitudes, “thoughts and prayers,” she translated words into action. When her childless, widowed aunt suffered from dementia, she and my dad supported her, cleaned for her. Unlike her aunt’s other scheming relatives, Mama did so without taking a dime.
A local commercial says, “Don’t rely on someone who can’t back up their word.” My mother established herself as trustworthy. Her integrity is something to seek in our leaders, as well as in ourselves.
Interested in a broad range of issues, including social and faith issues, Brickner serves as a regular contributor to the Forum’s opinion page. She is a retired English instructor, having taught in Michigan and Minnesota.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.