My mother, Socorro Marina “Penny” Ford, passed away very peacefully in the early hours of June 26, 2019.
I had a complicated relationship with my mom, but these are some of the things I believe to be true.
She was a woman well beyond her time. She was one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever known and definitely the most resilient. The obstacles and prejudices she faced in her lifetime are innumerable, and in many ways, likely hardened her, yet she always seemed to keep moving forward. Mom was one of three women in a class of 103, accepted to Loyola Medical School in 1950. Though she only stayed a year, as she followed the expectations of her times to raise a family when she became pregnant, she was still very much a trailblazer. Though she never completed her medical degree, she most definitely cut through, and cut herself on, some of those sharp brambles on the trail, and helped clear some obstacles for other women to blaze it.
She was also an incredibly talented artist. My brother Dan noted in her final hours that had she stayed in medical school, she may never have had the opportunity to create beauty in her silkscreens, painted rocks, and pressed flowers.
She always had an awareness of social justice and taught that to me through actions such as when I was in grade school and we had an annual national oratory where students had to memorize a speech or poem or historical document and recite it on stage to others in the school. While most students chose Lincoln’s Address or the Preamble, mom pulled out Native American poetry books and handed them to me and told me to pick out a poem. I didn’t have a complete grasp of the history at that time, but remember receiving a standing ovation and realizing this was something bigger than reciting poems from an older period of our nation’s history. Years later, as I think back to that time, I realize she knew I may not have fully understood the lesson, but that I would, later in life.
She taught me to be proud of who I am, regardless of whether society may state differently.
I also learned lessons indirectly from her own human weaknesses. I learned the importance of forgiveness and letting go and that by not doing so, one can create their own isolation. To do so though is not an easy task, but for a woman who persevered and persisted, she provided me the willfulness to find a way to do that.
Her show of love was often subtle. My dad would come home from work every night and change into these patterned polyester pants and often relaxed under the apple tree with a book. One day he came home and couldn’t find them. Mom had thrown them in the laundry basket because they were so dirty, they were ready to walk away on their own. For anyone who knew my dad, he was about as easy going as they come. However, not having his patterned polyester pants in his usual spot after work was very upsetting to him. What he likely never knew after that day, was that mom made sure those pants were always cleaned and dried for him when he arrived home, never ever letting him know that for years, she made certain they were there for him.
There are so many different pictures that come to mind as I think of my mom in her 90.5 years, which by the way, I don’t think is a coincidence. She was born on the 26th, as my dad was, and passed on the 26th. She had an obsessive habit of having to have things in front of her straightened out or in a line or in an order of some sort. It doesn’t surprise me that she left this earth at 90 years and 6 months, to the day.
I have nothing but gratitude left in me for this incredibly complex woman, full of strengths and flaws, who I often see in the mirror, but now, with a lot less judgment. I see her as an innocent child, a brilliant youth, a steeled adult, and a vulnerable elder. I love her and I wish her peace. And, I will miss her.
Socorro Marina “Penny” Ford – b. December 26, 1928, d. June 26, 2019