Mother’s Day approaches.
I’ve had two moms.
To be precise, I’ve had three. I had a biological mother who gave birth to me in the summer of 1975. She gave me up for adoption.
I’ve sifted through old papers and heard a few stories. I’m not really sure what happened.
I know that she was a woman who had a child and didn’t believe she could take care of it. She decided to have the baby and give it to people who could.
I respect that. I mean she could have aborted me. I may be a grouch, but I like living.
My first true mother was Kathryn Finney. That name inspires a mixture of fear and sadness.
Kathryn was good with babies. She had four sons by birth, a daughter by adoption, and finally me by adoption.
She also cared for more than 130 foster babies in her career.
She doted on babies.
There are stories about Kathryn that I struggle to believe — tales of her dressed to the nines, hosting parties, or being social.
The Kathryn I knew saved her social side for her twice-weekly trips to the hairdresser. (More on the hairdresser in a minute.)
By the time I came to know Mom 1.0, age and illness — almost certainly mental illness — had set in.
She abused prescription drugs, especially the old-fashioned opioids such as Darvon, Darvocet, and other pain killers now illegal.
This Kathryn slept most days and suffered violent mood swings. I never endured physical abuse from her. She was old and small, about 4-foot-11, but she could reduce you to a pile of ash with a stream of angry words.
There are happy memories with my mother. And I don’t ruminate on them enough. We used to go to Target together and she would buy me Star Wars toys.
She made my bologna and cheese sandwiches on white bread with a dollop of mustard in a smiley face with a glass of milk while I watched cartoons.
Life ended hard for her. Her husband of nearly 50 years died after a long battle with heart disease.
We moved into town in a small house near the high school. One night she got up to check on me and fell downstairs and cracked her head open.
She lived a week or so and regained consciousness. My brothers said that she was the woman they remembered when they were boys. I’m sorry that I never got to meet her. She had a seizure and she died. I was just 14 years old.
After some shuffling around, I ended up living with a couple on the east side of Des Moines. The woman who would become Mom 2.0 was Kathryn’s hairdresser. Her husband was a printer for one of the banks downtown.
Early on in my time with my new family, a child psychologist told Mom 2.0 out that she had the hardest job of the two new parents. She had to make me trust a mother.
I don’t think that I was a terribly misbehaved child when I came to live with Parents 2.0, but I was definitely angry and scared.
I did not want anyone to love me and I did not want to be loved. It seemed to me that people who did those things would either take that love away or die.
Mom 2.0 and I have a lot in common. We both lead from the heart. We both take things deeply personally.
But you have to give the old hairdresser credit: for every bit of sarcastic lip and refusal to acknowledge love, she stayed right where she was and kept loving me through all of it.
I think it was probably sometime in the first year living with Parents 2.0 that I accepted them as my mom and dad.
I still don’t call them mom and dad in person. I called them by their first names. But there’s no doubt about what role they play in my life and how important they are to me.
Mom 2.0 definitely got me to trust her, just like the therapist suggested. There’s probably not another person I trust more.
I don’t know how she did it really. I am not a person who trusts easily, and I’m not a person who gives in to his emotions — at least positively — too often.
I think the answer is just love.
Mom 2.0 is made of love. And she shares it easily and often with anyone who comes into her circle.
She takes care of her family. She takes care of her friends. She takes care of her neighbors. Heck, she takes care of my friends.
If she knew you, she would take care of you too.
It’s not really fair to compare my two moms. One mom was sick and lived in a time when it wasn’t really possible for her to get the help that she needed.
Mom 2.0 is strong and has always been strong. She’s the strongest person I’ve ever known.
You have to be pretty strong to teach someone how to love.
Happy Mother’s Day everybody.
Daniel P. Finney writes a column for the Marion County Express.
Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
So glad to see you have another column. 🥳
A wonderful tribute to both moms. Mental illness was a taboo subject as we were growing up—not to imply you’re my age! I’m sure she loved you very much, and mental illness got in the way. Mom 2.0 ? She was brave (taking on a 14 year-old boy with trust issues would be scary!), but she welcomed you, loved you, and made you love her back. She’s the hero of the story! As always, your story was heartfelt and wonderful.
Da, I have known your Mom 2.0 since a little girl at Calvary Baptist Church back in the day. She was our Sponsor for a young Christian girls group. When she became enjoyed to your Dad 2.0, she was ecstatic! I clearly remember the evening she showed her ring to the girls when we met at church for our monthly meeting. She has been the strong one in her family and when Bobby came along it was that much better. You are so deserving of a “Mom”like her, Daniel.