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May 10, 2015

Happy Mother’s Day

Dr. Gaby writing about her Mother

There is a saying that behind every successful man, there is a strong woman.  Nothing is more true when it comes to my Mom.  My Mom encouraged my Dad and family to move from Mexico to the US to get a better education and in reality a better life.  Just like then and as always, she has been there to support us either by a stern lesson or words of encouragement  to want to be better, to live a full life, to achieve what you can dream, to know right from wrong and to believe in yourself.

My mom is a straight shooter. Both my father and my mother were disciplinarians in the household but any kid in our household knew that if we did something and my mom got involved, the punishment would be delivered with twice the severity and twice the quickness. Even my father knew that when it came to the kids my mom would have the last word. I can’t count the many times that I heard my dad saying “You better ask your mother”.
I love you Mom.  I love you for everything that you did for me and the family. Sometimes we judge people by what we see when we see only them but to really understand why my Mom is so special is to look at my entire family.  My mom was only able to get a 6th grade education and I would venture to say that she is the smartest woman I know. I remember when I was entering college I was filling out my financial aid paperwork and needed to use my parents tax returns.  My Mom had always worked as a housekeeper so I did not expect that she made much but I also never suspected that she made so little. I realized that all those years she worked tirelessly to raise a family of eight children on practically a minimum wage salary and she did it with such astuteness that we were all in the dark about how little we actually had. To this day she and my father continue to help their children whenever they are asked or see the need.

My mom is not glamorous or vain. She almost never wore make-up and her clothes were always bought at the neighborhood thrift shop, she has never traveled the world or eaten at exotic restaurants and yet she has always had this presence about her. Ever since I can remember she seemed bigger and grander than anyone I knew. Even as I got older and equaled her in height I felt like she knew more, lived more, experienced more that I had. Her example taught me that the only things in life worth holding on to were the intangible things. She taught me the values that I pass down to my children such a belief in faith, family, sacrifice, perseverance, and love.
 When I think of my Mom, I smile to myself as I see her in me.  Her sphere of influence reaches my daughters and my sisters children, 15 in total.  She is my Mom and I love her with all of my heart.  It is very rare for a child to tell their parent that they are proud of them but I am proud of you Mom, for everything that you have taught me, everything I have become is because of the values you have instilled in me.  I can never say it enough, I love you Mom.


Dr. Tod Hardin and His Mom

This all started a few days ago when my wife was having a “teaching” moment with my hormonal 13 year-old daughter.  She said “you will know when a boy is a keeper if they treat their mom nice.  That is why I married your dad.”  So much for thinking it was my flowing blond locks and my letterman’s jacket.  On the flip side, my whole strategy when we were dating was to convince my future wife to like me before she knew there was anything better out there (we met at 14).  27 years of blissful marriage later, both game-plans seemed to pan out pretty well.


Getting back to my wife’s teaching moment, I just haven’t been able to shake the comment she made to my daughter.  I have been reflecting on the influence my mother has had on my life, on the role she played, and continues to play, forming the person I am today.  With Mother’s Day being today, I could not pass up the opportunity to write this tribute of gratitude to my mom.


Raising two boys just 17 months apart takes considerable fortitude!  My brother and I are the best of friends now, but back in the day, I got real good at taking a beating from my older brother.  Even though he scored near perfect on his SAT test in high school, graduated college in 3 years, figured out a way for his employer to pay for his Masters at UCLA, and retired for the first time around 40…the smartest thing he ever did was stop picking on me once I got to be the same size as him.  Funny, but I don’t remember any fights past the age of about 13 or 14.   What I do remember, however, is that if you put a “wooden spoon” in my mother’s hand, it really didn’t matter who was winning the fight.  Survival instincts took over, and it was all about who could outrun her.


When we were both pretty young, my mother took my brother and I to “Mother/Child” camp.  I believe it was run by the YMCA.  It was awesome!  We caught our first fish, and yes, made a tie-dye shirt or two.  Looking back, however, she had to be completely nuts!  My father would have been more than happy to come, as we did a ton of camping growing up, but she was determined to show her boys that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.   I didn’t know it then, but this fearlessness to take her two sons to camp along the Oregon Coast would establish a pattern in her life that exists to this day.

It is never too late to learn something new!

My mother graduated from the University of Oregon with a teaching degree in the mid 1960’s.  I believe she only taught for a few years because once she had my brother and I, she felt strongly that she should be home with us.  Just as I was graduating from High School, my mom went back to school and got her nursing degree.   She spent the next 20+ years being an operating room nurse at the VA.  I know she was pretty awesome at being an OR nurse, but being caught up in my own life and growing family during that time, I know I have not adequately expressed the pride and amazement I have of her nursing career.  I don’t know all the details, but I have to believe being on the “liver transplant” team is a pretty significant accomplishment.  It was through her time working as a nurse that she finally en-grained in me her most important life lesson of all!


The most important work we do in this life will not be done for compensation!

My earliest memories of my mom recall her always volunteering for “Waverly”.  Even though she gave up her teaching career to raise my brother and I, she was driven to still find ways to help those in need.  Later in life I found out that “Waverly” was an orphanage in the Portland area that she continually volunteered her time.  Having been an adopted orphan herself, she found solace in giving her time and talents to children in need.  She also was extremely active in “Junior League”, an organization that trained young women to be effective volunteers.  A Gresham Outlook newspaper article written in 1981, concerning all her volunteer activities, quotes her as saying “I feel I’ve had nothing but good fortune.  I had fine parents and a good education and a good mind and was able to go to college.  If you’ve gotten a lot, it’s your obligation to give some of that good back.” Hmmmmm, all these years later, did she practice what she preached?

>Project Hope, March 2005.  Indonesia Tsunami that killed over 250,000.  Spent several weeks on board the US Mercy T-AH 19, a floating hospital just off the coast. The injured were flown by helicopter to be treated on the ship.

>Project Hope, 2006, Hurricane Katrina, Operation Unified Assistance.

>Project Hope, 2007, Humanitarian Mission, USS Peleliu CHA-5, Western Pacific.

>May 2008, International Medical Surgical Response Team, Aboard the USS Boxer, Operation “Continuing Promise”, Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala.

>2010, Rescue and Recovery, Haiti Earthquake.  Keep in mind, my mother was nearly 70 years old in 2010, and the surgical team insisted that she be their nurse.

>2014, Master Gardener of the year for the state of Oregon.  This is only awarded/won through countless hours of volunteer teaching and lecturing about gardening.


I know I am missing so many other “life lessons” that my mother hopes will eventually sink in.  Isn’t that what mothers do?  They remain eternally optimistic about their children, despite our shortcomings.  Mom, I just want you to know there is more sinking in than I let on.  I am eternally grateful for how you raised Tim and I, and I want you to know we both love you very much.  It is often said that a true friend would be someone you would want to be by your side if you happen to “go to battle”.   Well, the toughest and most fearless person I would want by my side is 70 something years old, a woman, and will forever be the hero I strive to be….I would take you!  Happy Mother’s Day