For My Mother On Her Birthday

By Joel Hruska

Date: January 7, 2002

Today is my mother’s birthday. I could tell you how old she is, but if I did so the phrase “You can never go home again” would become much more directly relevant and applicable in my life. “Hell,” as the saying goes, “has no fury like a woman scorned”—or, in this case, a woman who’s age is revealed by her son. Let’s just keep it simple and leave the number off.

What makes my relationship with my mother different than most is that she is my adopted mother—not my birth mother. My birth mother (Cynthia) passed away when I was 3 years old and she was 27. My father remarried in the spring of 1985 to Robin, who later adopted me around 1987.

Looking back, I can only imagine how daunting a task that must have been. Marriage is a tremendous and life-changing step on its own, but to add in a five-year old son from a previous marriage would definitely complicate the matter further. To go from single to newly-wed and a mother in a single step would be immensely difficult—or so it seems to me.

But whatever her inner doubts, it’s a step she took. From 1985 to the present day she has been an incredible presence in my life. When I was little I had a number of coordination problems from being born extremely premature. It took me months to learn to skip and almost a year to ride a bike. In both cases, she was there to encourage and help me.

Around 7th or 8th grade I discovered one of the major evil’s of the world—math. My mother was a math teacher and became my tutor for several years. I discovered the meaning of the phrase “love-hate relationship” working with her on a nightly basis. Loved the teacher—loathed the topic. At times our tempers would flare (due to the corrupting nature of Algebra) and the resulting knock-down drag-out could’ve been aired on the WWF to rave reviews.

I might not have liked math—but thanks to her tutoring, I did learn it. The literal truth is, without that help I probably wouldn’t have made it through my math classes. Because I was attempting to qualify for a higher-level diploma from my high school with more rigorous requirements, it was critical that my math grades stay high. Had I not qualified for that academic program its highly unlikely that I would’ve qualified for the level of merit-based scholarship aid that I needed to attend the university of my choice. Those nightly tutoring sessions may not have instilled in me a love of mathematics but they likely made the difference in where I went to college.

I could go on. I could talk about how even when my little sister came along—her first-born ‘natural’ child—I was not pushed off to the side. I could talk about how I’ve always been treated as her son from day one. I could talk about her current job—teaching math at an alternative school in Kentucky to a group of kids with some real problems in life. I could talk about her work ethic or her drive to support and love her family or her incredible faith and strength.

Of course, she’s not perfect. I’ve seen her get angry when she shouldn’t, stress when she doesn’t need to, and worry far too much. She’d be the first to stand-up and shout that she isn’t a saint, but the fact is, I’ve watched her work incredibly hard in difficult situations where the easy thing to do was quit and give up—without ever doing so.

While I will always wonder about my birth mother and wish I had gotten to chance to know her, God sent me a gift from heaven the day my father married my adopted mother. She has disproved every step-mother legend I’ve ever known and unreservedly given of herself in more ways than I can capture in any article. She and my father both taught me that your family is the people who care about and love you as much as the people you’re related too—one of the most important lessons I have ever learned.

I love you Mom. Happy Birthday.


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