So with Mother’s Day approaching, it seems a no-brainer that I would write about my Mom and moms in general. Yet, as per usual, there are those who believe it is a marketing coup and a greeting card company’s invention but I don’t remember it that way when I recall my youth. I loved Mother’s Day and I still do. Let me tell you why later but let me begin with those who may not be familiar with Hilda Law.
As you may know, I am easily noticed and difficult to forget and using one’s feet to do things like play the drums or drive a car gets a pretty consistent reaction…that’s amazing! In an oft-used line from my talk, “Thanks but it was my Mom who was amazing!” I also have told this story hundreds of thousands of times but must include it here. Hilda Law was 55 years old the day she and her 53 year old husband, my Dad, Jack Law, took me home from the Yorkton General Hospital in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. I was three weeks old and for legal and practical reasons, was an orphan. My birth family were terrified! I was born without arms and while in 2014, we are concerned by such a thing, in 1960 it was indescribable. The medical community shared in the horror and gave absolutely no hope to these confused people so when they “gave me up” it was probably not an easy decision but more importantly, I have actually never been bitter about their choice. In fact, my strongest observation is not why my family would give me up but why anyone would want me?
Clearly, this story is an inspiring one and I totally get that but I want to focus on something a bit less obvious. Hilda Law had but one objective…get the best out of what I had! I know that isn’t exactly “original” but remember, I had no arms! That’s a really big deal. The even bigger deal is she didn’t seem to worry about that. I mean, she must have, right? Yet when asked, her patented response…”We did what we had to do!” After Superman saves the world, what does he say? “Just doing what I had to do”! Okay, that’s really humble and inspiring but saving the world isn’t easy and not everybody can pull it off. Same with raising a child without arms.
I have never, ever been able to comprehend how I ended up with Hilda and Jack Law. I have heard lots of answers from people, and frankly, they usually refer to God and I am okay with that but let’s keep in mind, He or She didn’t do the work! Hilda Law did. And even though she credited her faith for giving her strength, and I would never question that, I still think she was way too humble about it, but that was her.
And that’s why I loved and still love, Mother’s Day. My Dad was “Old School” to say the least and there was an old fashioned hierarchy in our home, but it was a sign of the times so “Woman’s Work” was not thought of as derogatory. I also have a very clear recollection that my Dad had great respect for his wife and although he was, as per the time, “The Man of the House”, he knew my Mom was a powerful woman but in those days, he didn’t bring home flowers to be thoughtful. So, Mother’s Day was a special day for honouring the women who mostly didn’t want the attention but did deserve it!
What I feel was the greatest gift my Mom gave me had to the most difficult to provide…my independence! I will never forget after a speech many years ago, a stranger approached to have a chat. I get that a lot and their body language is 99% positive but every now and then, you either offend someone or they simply want to disagree with you and that’s cool, but usually uncomfortable. This lady’s presence made me uncomfortable. When her turn came, she told me she knew my Mom and just had to tell me a personal reflection (again, not uncommon) but she prefaced it by saying she didn’t share my memory of affection for Hilda Law? Say what?
Apparently, this lady spent almost a year in a rental home just down the street from our home in Yorkton. Her dad was in the military and there was what they called a radar base just outside town. I was around two years old at the time and as it turns out, was a late “walker”. I guess I had a rough time getting my balance down, but for those of you who have a child or several, remember when they learned to walk? Remember how frustrating it could be for the child? Remember how hard it was to watch them fall? Now imagine it lasting months longer than normal and your baby has no hands to break his fall? Ouch!
So, I learned to walk on the front lawns of the homes in our neighbourhood. I could go from yard to yard as there were no fences and/or trees or hedges to get in the way then. One day, I am out trying my best and this lady was at that time, ten. She was on her front stoop playing with her dolls and we spotted each other. She was new to the block and had never seen me so obviously, she was intrigued. I wanted to see her dolls. I did a bee-line for her and promptly tripped on some grass and did a nose dive. I also started to scream and cry. This young lady started to move off her steps to help and she met Hilda Law. The day we met, her narrative went like this:
“I got about five feet from you and this terrible women screeched at me to leave you alone! She scared the crap out of me. I looked up and this older women comes striding up, doesn’t even introduce herself or change her tone and repeats…Leave Him Alone! How is he supposed to learn to get up if everyone always tries to pick him up? I remember thinking this woman was hideous and mean and insensitive and I was frozen with fear. The rest was a bit blurry but you had gotten to your feet and your lip was bleeding so your Mom picked you up, pivoted and marched back to your house without another word. I must say, Mr. Law, your mother seemed opposite to the way you present her!”
I am usually a great reader of people but this lady had me stumped! I thought she was genuinely offended so when she broke into a smile and asked if she could hug me, I was taken aback but when she released the hug, she finished by saying something extraordinary:
“I have three children today who are now grown up and thankfully all very independent and strong. I must tell you, I used your mother as my inspiration in being a mom. Your mother was probably the strongest woman I ever met and my first impression was incorrect, but I was ten years old so easily hurt. But Mr. Law, she was incredible and she cared so much about you, she let you fall so you could learn to get up and look at you today! (She got tears in her eyes at this point) I want to thank you for your Mom”
Incredible! Unfortunately, Hilda Law passed away in 1996 so I couldn’t tell her this story but I tell the story of my Mom every day, even if I am not on stage. We all have personal feelings about our mom’s and sadly, they aren’t always happy ones but I want to take this opportunity to wish my Mom a Happy Mother’s Day as a single day does not go by without my profoundly genuine gratitude for the woman that may not have given birth to me but she gave me the gift of a life I celebrate every chance I get.
Love and Miss you, Hilda Law!