May 10, 2015

Thank God For Moms

As I write, I find myself on a plane between Atlanta, GA, and Appleton, WI, returning from my annual Georgia turkey hunt with my Army buddies. 

You probably already know what I'd say if you asked me how the hunt went.  I'd say, “Awesome!”  Any time I get a chance to spend time outdoors with family and friends is awesome. Harvesting gobblers is merely a bonus.  We did cull a few and I do have some great stories to share — but you’ll have to wait for next spring's issue to hear about them.

My favorite part of hunting the spring woods is the opportunity to witness the return of a variety of fauna and the rebirth of flora. Like every spring, the skies were filled with the sights and sounds of migratory birds and the woods were exploding with color from the blooming dogwoods, azaleas, red buds, wild daffodils and countless other plants and flowers.

On opening morning, well before dawn, I stood with my close friend Dave Sales near a small pond that borders a large flooded timber swamp. To me, one of the greatest times of any day is dawn when, if you are paying attention, you will witness the daily shift change from the nocturnal animals, birds and insects to the abundant diurnal critters that inhabit our woods, fields, waters and skies during the day. One minute we were listening to barred owls and whippoorwills, and the next we were listening to mourning doves, robins, geese and turkeys gobbling on the roost. It was absolutely magical.

When I’m turkey hunting, I often sit quietly for hours with nothing to do but think.  Sure, sometimes I think about work and the aforementioned trials, but this trip I spent a lot of time thinking about the awesomeness of God and all He created for me to enjoy.

It's times like these when I truly feel the magnitude of my many blessings. It is so easy to get bogged down in the tribulations and hectic pace of life — but the glory and beauty of the spring woods have a mysterious way of making everything seem right with the world.  I hope you experience the same when the anxieties of life are getting the best of you.

I thought a lot about my dad and how fortunate I am that he is an avid outdoorsman and that he took the time to share his passion with me and teach me the ways of the woods and waters.  He normally joins us on this hunt but chose to stay home with my mother as she was recovering from a recent illness.  Good job, Dad — you certainly haven’t forgotten the vows you took 55 years ago.

I thought a lot about my wife of almost 27 years.  Jeannie is an amazing life partner and mother who keeps the home fires burning while I'm out chasing critters and fish all over Wisconsin and other parts of America and Canada.  I simply could not do what I love to do without her. Since I'm a veteran, people often thank me for my service.  When she is present, I always ask them to thank her.  She, too, is a veteran, but the entire time we served, she was also the commander of the household and always kept the trains running on time.  Sure, soldiering is important work, but it pales in comparison to the exponentially harder and more important work of being a mom.

Jeannie’s work at home allows me to enjoy the outdoors.  Even more importantly, her work allows me to pass on my passion and knowledge of the outdoors to our three daughters. 

I also thought a great deal about my own mom.  My five siblings and I all agree that Maureen Blando is the most amazing mom ever. We were lucky.  Mom and Dad met, fell in love, and then had six kids.  It might seem a little old-fashioned today but Dad worked arduously as a laborer and Mom served humanity as a stay-at-home mom.  We never had a lot of material things, but we did have a loving, clean home where the values of respect, responsibility, honesty, hard work and kindness were demonstrated by my parents every day.

Many years ago, my brothers and I had a simple plaque made for my father that was inscribed, "Dad, thanks for teaching us about the great outdoors."  On this particular hunt, it finally dawned on me that we should have a plaque made for our mom that says:

“Thanks for birthing us, nursing us, cleaning up after us, washing our clothes (even when they had skunk scent or fox urine on them), grocery shopping, cooking, making cookies, knitting our hats and mittens, checking our homework, typing our papers, listening to our endless hunting and fishing stories, supporting us when our feelings were hurt, figuring it all out when there was more mouthes than money, attending all our sporting events, driving us and our friends everywhere, occasionally picking us up at the police station, keeping the peace, making the unpopular tough decisions, paying the bills, and taking us camping where you shouldered the lion's share of the responsibility for packing, unpacking, cooking, cleaning, tending to bumps, bruises, scrapes and bug bites, and a plethora of other chores, etc., etc., etc., so that we could pretty much hunt and fish whenever the spirit moved us to do so.”

Because Mom did what she did, I am an outdoorsman and so are all of my siblings.  I now have the knowledge and skills to teach my kids to be outdoorswomen.  Because my wife does what she does, I have the time to teach my daughters the ways of the outdoors.  What a true gift both of these women have given me.

This Mother's Day I'm going to tell my mother how much I love her and how I will always remember all she's done for me. My dad taught me how to hunt, fish, camp and experience a multitude of other outdoor activities.  None of this, however, would have been possible without Mom completing every other task required to establish and maintain a loving, happy home.  I'm also going to thank her for giving me the gift of the outdoors. I’m then going to thank my wife for the same.

If you are fortunate enough to still have your mom, perhaps you too can thank her for her role in your outdoor upbringing. If she has already entered into eternal life, thank her anyway.  There is no doubt in my mind she will hear you and there is no doubt in my mind that your words will bring a smile to her face.

Thanks, God. You sure knew what you were doing when you created moms.