My Biggest Cheerleader...Mom
Bonita “Bonnie” Rozmus (Andrews)
You may have noticed that I have not written lately on my first ever cross country season in 1985. I have been spending many of my days and nights visiting and helping my mother who was dealing with liver and kidney cancer. Her battle ended at 11:13 PM on Sunday, October 11th, when she took her final breath in hospice care. She is now in a better place, looking down on us, and so proud of her family. This installment is dedicated to her, my first running cheerleader, who believed I could do whatever I put my mind to.
Time To Grow Up
I wish I could paint a rosy picture of my mother’s life when she was younger, but she was a survivor. My grandparents had my mom and her older sister Beverly late in life. My grandfather, Clarence Andrews, was 51 years, and my grandmother, Anna Andrews, was 40 when my mom was born and Beverly was only two years older. My grandmother passed away when my mother was only 10 years old, so the two sisters had to take care of their elderly father due to health concerns. Clarence had been previously hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, and he was an abusive alcoholic. The two teenage sisters had to take care of their father who was in his 60’s with failing physical and mental health. Beverly and my mom were best friends, and my mom always held her sister close to her heart.
Eventually, Beverly married, had a son right out of high school, and moved out. This left my mom to be the main caregiver for her father because Beverly was taking care of her family. With her sister not being around as much combined with little adult guidance, my mom had become pregnant with me during the course of her junior year in high school. She turned 17 on November 5th, and I was born a little over a month later on December 17th. She dropped out of high school and married my biological father while still caring for her father (with the help of her sister).
The two sisters were moving on with their lives, but two things happened soon after that changed my mom’s life forever.
Us Against the World
There are moments in your life when you have a choice to rise up and meet the challenge or slink away and let life run you over. My mom was faced with this challenge when her husband, my biological father, had walked out on us and moved to Florida shortly after their marriage. My mom still had her sister and best friend to lean on, but that didn’t last very long. At the age of 23, Beverly had a sudden brain aneurism that took her life. This left my mother on her own to take care of a small child and an ailing 73-year-old father. These were devastating events that would crush most people, but my mom persevered and did what she had to do to look after all of us.
She was a waitress at a local diner and that did not quite pay enough to take care of the three of us, so she had to go on public assistance to get by. This was always a sore spot for her whenever we would talk about those times; she was angry and ashamed of having to do it. If she was going to be able to take care of us, she knew it was necessary. That was her situation in life...working full time as a waitress and caring for her father and son at night with little help or support. I wasn’t aware of my situation then, but learning this when I was older made me realize that my mother had lost her youth to make sure she got me through.
This was her new reality until she met Larry Rozmus, who is my dad, and they eventually married in 1975.
We Are Family
My sister was named after my aunt Beverly, and she was born in 1976. We were officially a family, and my mom could catch her breath to go back and get her GED and take a few accounting classes to work in office bookkeeping.
We eventually settled in the south end of Toledo in 1979 where we spent most of our time until I married and moved out. Our parents made sure my sister and I were given every opportunity for success and made the best of our lives. For that, I will always be grateful.
When I took to running in high school, my mom was the one to take me to get my first pair of running shoes and spikes. Both my mom and dad were at almost every meet and race in high school, college, and beyond. Sometimes they would drive all day to watch me run for less than 15 minutes.
I could always tell when I wasn’t racing well because my mom would let me know to get my ass moving. One of my loudest and toughest critics were my parents; my mom would never let me get by without asking a question or two about why this happened in the race or why I did that in the race. They did not lavish praise unless it was earned, and I never appreciated that until I became a parent. It made me see that “fake” praise only minimizes actual achievements.
A Calling Late In Life
My mom found her calling later in life as a job coach for special needs consumers at the Lucas County MMRD. I never saw her more fulfilled and happy than when she talked about her consumers, and how she was able to coach them to learn and understand their job. I would like to think that we both had the same calling of helping others since I was a jr. high English teacher and coach for 28 years.
That same passion she had for my running only continued and blossomed with my four children. What has made me the happiest son alive was being able to watch my mom enjoy her grandchildren after all the strife and hardships of my childhood that she endured. I felt like I was able to give her some of that time back to watch my children grow and develop around her. She loved her grandchildren with passion and was their biggest cheerleader as she was for me.
I will miss…
looking over at her in the soccer bleachers at Nathan or Jonah’s game and telling her to settle down or just look at my wife and shrug my shoulders.
I will miss…
going up to her before a cross country race and pointing out the best places for them to go to see Abby or Simon in the race.
I will miss…
explaining all the grandkids’ schedules and how to get to fields and courses.
I will miss…
my Thursday night phone call with her on my way home from the track workout.
I will miss…