A Determined Optimist: Shirley Henry

May 10, 2020

I wrote this post 10 years ago on my Elevate blog. My mom is gone now, but she’s not. She made a huge difference in the world and in my brothers and me. So here’s the post where it’s easier to read. My family hopes you enjoy and celebrate your mom today, too!

Shirley Henry is the type of person that never met a stranger. She makes friends easily and thinks the best of people. She is quick to like someone and slow to change her mind. She also likes to stay busy and involves herself in causes quickly. She’s about as quick to help someone as she is to know and like them.

She is the second of 4 children born to immigrants from Lebanon. Her father passed away while she was young and her mother was committed to a home due to mental issues. We now think her mother was diabetic, but no one made that diagnosis years ago. The four siblings, Toni, Shirley, Bob and Joanne struggled to remain together and had some hard times as foster children.

Mom eventually married my dad and I was their first born, Mark and Matt to follow. Mom learned how to be a mother with me and that was fine. We did a lot of things together back in the days when mom’s stayed home and raised their kids. Mom was pretty independent because Dad had to work so many jobs to make ends meet while he finished college at night school on the GI Bill. But I never knew we didn’t have anything. I had everything I needed.

When we banged ourselves as kids, as long as there was no blood, all was fine. She’d look at us and say, “oh, you’re alright. Get out there and win the next one!” “You’re not hurt. Look! You’re missing the game.” Or, “It’s just a scratch. Quit your whining.” We made it alright.

She also cooked 3 meals a day. To this day, she’s always cooking something. She invented a meal or two; some that stick around to this day, like Mish Mosh. She also had some famous experiments, or lessons.  A few were donated, but money was scarce, so many times we ate them anyway.  You learn to keep your criticism to yourself.  Besides, you can’t make masterpieces without spilling some paint every now and then.

Mom and I had some hard times when I was a teenager (which lasted until I was about 35). She went through quite a when I did some of my less-intelligent things, like my living arrangements in the fraternity and my choice of friends. The roughest time was probably the months when I recovered from a bad automobile accident in 1979. She hoofed me to doctors sometimes three times a week for 5 months. Her only complaint was that her patient was a pain in the butt.

Mom, thanks for everything you’ve done for me. I appreciate you, your optimism, self discipline, and your passion for people. You have blessed me with your spirit for people and your passion for service.  I will always love you.