Mom

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.

Mom

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as when I was in grade school and we had an annual national oratory where students had to memorize a speech or poem or historical document and recite it on stage to others in the school.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

https://www.hjfunerals.com/…/…/26/socorro-marina-penny-ford/

 

My Work Families

Having spent the busiest month of my work year in order to join my siblings to care for my 88-year old mother as we transitioned her over to assisted living, I found myself entering a hidden world of elders where so many extraordinary tales were waiting to be told. I’ve hashed through my mind several chapters and standalone stories worth their weight in gold. But today, a different one emerges.

One thing I realized both when I was gone and especially when I returned, was how extraordinary my co-workers were during my absence. I always knew I worked among a group of people who care about each other and have each other’s backs, but I had not experienced the impact of it firsthand until now. Many reached out when I was gone to provide support and assurance to not worry about work. Others offered more words when I returned and had to find my footing once again. So many picked up the extra weight that comes with the start of a Fall semester at a university and shined while doing so.

As I thought about my local work family, another one, full of colleagues from other universities who I meet with regularly and who also sent me words of support and encouragement during this time, came to my attention.

As I was heading to bed last night, I received an email from the Program Manager of my Higher Ed Forum, a group of higher education professionals in the IT Help Desk industry that meets three times a year at various schools throughout North America. We meet and engage in intensive meetings on the latest topics of interest in our profession, share ideas, and open our campuses and hometowns to each other. We work hard and play hard together and grow close in the few days a year we connect. We come from all walks of life and backgrounds, yet find a common thread that makes it easy to share and open up to one another. We have seen each other go through marriages, divorces, sickness, childbirth, losing loved ones, and now, losing each other.

When I saw the email reach my inbox with the subject line of “Sad news”, I thought for a moment that someone was leaving the forum. I didn’t expect to hear that Rion Morgan, a young and brilliant light of a man, was one of the victims of the Plano, Texas shootings this past weekend. I had only met Rion on a couple of occasions when he attended meetings, but he was quick to participate both in our professional discussions and our after hours gatherings. He had a smile that was contagious and a warmth that made you feel like you had been longtime friends.

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One of my absolutely favorite nights out was in November 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas when our forum met at Texas Christian University. We had just completed a Vertical Lessons leadership program with Manley Feinberg which included “mastering” the indoor climbing wall at TCU.  A group of us found ourselves wandering the area after dinner and landed at the Fort Worth Water Gardens. It was dusk as we walked down into the gardens and I remember Rion very quietly and sweetly offering me a hand as I found my footing down the steps in the dark. When we came upon the Mountain sculpture, of course, we decided it was an opportune moment to scale it.  It wasn’t until afterwards that we noted it may not have been the safest thing to do in our street shoes (Belay off!) when we saw the “no climbing” sign on the wall. If there is one thing about this group, it is that you always go home with a story!

I didn’t know Rion well, but I will always remember his light and he will always have a special place in my heart and be a part of this extraordinary family.

RIP Rion

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