Relationships: Learning How to Be a Mom (The Hard Way)

Today’s guest post comes from Teresa Rodriguez, an Emmy-Award winning newscaster. 

As a little girl, I knew my mom would always be there for me…..whether it be waking me up to go to school, preparing breakfast and making sure I had all my books before she kissed me on the cheek and waved me off to class or buying remnants at the local fabric store to sew clothes for me so that I would have new dresses to wear.  She was my hero, a statuesque, beautiful, brunette with the tiniest waste, the longest legs and a smile that could conquer all.  She never mastered the English language, a native of Cuba, she came to this great country well into her thirties and as was the custom there, she became a housewife, taking care of my older brother and me, while our dad worked as a busboy at a popular South Florida hotel.  We grew up in a lower income neighborhood, but our memories were always happy ones….now I realize how difficult it must have been to make ends meet, but by the look on her face, you would never have guessed it.  In fact, she turned our rented home into a shelter for others arriving from the Communist island – offering them free room and board until they were able to afford a place of their own, often times, serving herself the smallest portion in order to make sure the children ate first.  Some of these “families” became an extension of ours.  Somehow, despite our limited resources, she managed to feed anywhere from 4 to 10…every night.
She never got beyond an eighth-grade education which is why she wanted me to go to college, to get an education and to explore the world.  Although I helped her with household chores, she always explained that I would have ample time to learn the basics of cooking and cleaning, but an education came first.  Her words became my impetus for achievement.  Four years after my high school graduation, I became the first one in my family to obtain a college degree and move on to a very successful career as a Spanish language news anchor, broadcast journalist and author.  
Unfortunately, breast cancer claimed her life before she was able to witness any of these milestones.  Today, as I write this tribute in her memory, I think back to how she always wanted a better life for me, how as a struggling immigrant herself, she gave of herself and what she didn’t have to total strangers and how, despite her failing health, her positive outlook and incredible disposition never waned.
Little did I know that I would become a widow in my early forties, raising two boys by myself, then 10 and 15, while working full time in a very demanding field which included traveling at the drop of a hat and where the forty hour work week is unheard of.  It wasn’t until that moment, nearly ten years ago, when my husband died suddenly of a massive heart attack, that I found myself mimicking my mother’s actions.  I recalled her smile and as I held on tightly to my boys, I reassured them that we would get through this.  Her example was etched in my mind and heart.  She had given me the strength and conviction that I would later use with my own children.
Today, those boys are men – one is a sports anchor at a Miami television station and the other will be a junior at the University of Michigan this coming fall, where he will most likely continue on to law school.  They are not just my sons, they are my best friends. I know she would have been very proud of what her grandchildren have become.  Somehow they, too, are fulfilling a part of her dream.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my mom, her examples and her smile.  She created a strong, independent, hard-working woman with a generous heart and an optimistic outlook on life.  I’d like to think that someday my kids will have those same memories of me and hope my example will leave an imprint on their lives, above all may they never forget the power of love, the power of a smile and the power of a mother.

Vanessa McGradyRelationships: Learning How to Be a Mom (The Hard Way)

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