Saturday, May 12, 2012

I'm Here Because of Her

My parents, Lois Marie and B. G. Olson, in Sitka, Alaska about four years ago

It goes without saying that none of us would be here were it not for our mothers.

And I have come to realize that, in addition, I would not be here, doing what I am doing and living where I do now, if it were not for Mom.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, because this Mother's Day will be a transition for me: it's my first Mother's Day without my mother around. She passed away peacefully and without pain, with all of her children holding her, at noon last Sunday.

It was harder to recall in later years when she was not as energetic or well, but my mother was an adventurous young woman. My aunt Josie, who is my mother's younger sister, tells stories of all the places they went, just the two of them, and the exciting things they did when she and Mom were still small girls. Mom was the leader.

Maybe adventurousness was in the family. My grandfather Dewey Wedderien ran away from home at the age of 13 to join a circus and later flew biplanes (until he had one too many crashes). One of his sisters, my great aunt Hazel, was a well-known rodeo performer all over the Western U.S. and Canada in the early 1900's. My grandparents, my mother and her four brothers and sisters traveled from Maryland to California in an ancient touring car in the late 1930's. Later they sold the car and used the money to return East by bus. Mom caught malaria on that trip and was sick for quite a long time.

A Baltimore girl, she got on a train by herself at the age of 21 and traveled across the United States to marry B. G. Olson, whom she'd met when he was stationed briefly by the U. S. Army in nearby Washington, D. C. The story goes that when she got off the train in Tacoma, Washington he was not there to meet her. She was angry and getting ready to buy a return ticket when he showed up late; back then there were two train stations in Tacoma and he'd gone to the wrong one (but that's another story).

My mother and I in Juneau, Alaska, 1957
Then shortly after marrying, my parents-to-be decided to move north to the Territory of Alaska, and traveled there by steamship. Almost immediately they were involved in the writing of the Alaska state constitution and the political battle for Alaska statehood, which came in 1959. They bought a small boat to fish and explore the wilderness. They flew in tiny bush planes all over the state. They published a small newspaper. Later Mom and Dad owned remote cabins where they spent their summers. Mom retired as the school librarian in an Aleut village on an isolated island in the Bering Sea. My parents traveled and moved quite a bit over the years, and along the way had three children. I was the first.

In short, my mother had an adventurous streak. As a young woman she took risks and enjoyed new things, as did my father. She and my father inspired their children to do the same.

Among other things, it was my parents who insisted that I study a foreign language, and encouraged me to choose Spanish. It was my mother who convinced me at the age of 16 to join a youth group that traveled to South America to do summer volunteer work. This was a critical formative experience that influenced my career plans and ignited a passion for "south of the border" that I feel to this day.

So in terms of my interests, where I live now, successes I've had, and what I am doing with my life, it was my parents, and in large part my mother who not only gave birth to me and raised me, but helped set me on a course that led to an interesting and unconventional life. And all of that brought me to Mexico, and to live in Mérida a few years ago, where life seems to just get better and richer as time goes by.

Thank you, Mom. I love you, and Happy Mother's Day.


  1. Marc,
    A loving tribute to your mother, her life, and her influence over your direction - I am touched by the warmth of your words, the care you have extended to your parents in their final years, and the courage you gift to all of us who are new to the life NOB.
    Warmest of love and hugs to you my friend.

  2. What a wonderful story Marc. We're so sorry to hear about your Mom. Hope you're doing well.

  3. What a lovely tribute. I too lost my mother a few years ago so I know how you feel.

  4. So sorry to hear about your mother's passing Marc. The photo of her with you as a baby is unforgettable. The connection between you is so clear and so intimate it is as if the camera is not there. I figured she was an extraordinary mom. She must have been very proud of you.

  5. I'm sorry to hear that you lost your Mother. I still have mine and I will go see her tomorrow. My mother was one who insisted that her boys learn to take care of themselves, cook, mend their cloths, clean up after them selves and others-those dishes had better be clean. She seems to be doing well, I'm lucky.

  6. Hello Marc,
    Have been reading your Blog for few years,
    Always appreciate your keen insight!Now I know who you got them from...

    You will always and ever,only heart felt always with Mom.
    She lives with you!

  7. Marc,
    Being a firstborn of someone who encourages exploration and adventure is a special blessing which we have both enjoyed. (I readily concede that your experience is more colorful than mine.) The value of growing up in a home where fear does not reign, and children are encourage to go forth, is incalculable. You've written a precious testament regarding her gift to you. Thanks for sharing it.


  8. The nut didn't fall far from the tree. And a glorious tree she was, Marc. Thanks for sharing some details from her life experiences. I will think of her when looking across the table at you in Flor.

  9. Marc,
    A great tribute to your Mom on this Mother's Day. What an interesting life your parents have had and now we know where your training originated. You are most fortunate that you and your Mother were together at her passing.


  10. Thanks to your mother, we now have a terrific blog to enjoy too. Sounds like she lived life to the fullest. May she rest in peace.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA

  11. It's nice to know how much children celebrate us, their mom's -- and always.
    Your writing is a wonderful gift, and especially for her.

  12. How nice!
    What a fantastic woman she was and what a good mother. It wasn't easy to be an adventurous and independent woman in those days. It's not easy now!
    I am sorry for your loss, Marc.

  13. Words fail me to do justice to your post, but you have certainly left your mother a beautiful tribute for mother's day. She sounds absolutely wonderful.

  14. Marc,
    I think your readers might enjoy this belated Mother's Day essay which is really cool. I think your Mom would have enjoyed it, endorsed it, even written it: ~eric.

  15. Ooops. I thought it was written by the mom. (Reading to fast, I guess.) But it's a great read, just the same. ~eric.

  16. I lost my dear mother August 10, 2004. She, like your mother, was a wonderful person and an equally wonderful parent. I miss her immensely to this day. She passed peacefully as I was holding her. I share your loss in so many ways.

    What a great post and tribute to an obvious great woman.

    Merida Mikey

  17. The picture tells of your love for one another. My words are surely insufficient to add more. How blessed the two of you.

  18. Marc, I am so sorry for your loss. Your mother sounds like she was an exceptional person and looking at the photo you can see that she was a loving mother. No wonder you came out so well, she did what parents aspire to, she gave you roots and wings. Thank you for sharing her story.

  19. From personal experience, I know that words of sympathy can not heal the loss and pain you are feeling. But they help. Just knowing that there are people out there who care about you is a comfort in times like these. This tribute to your mother came straight from your heart, which is where she will continue to live with you. My deepest sympathies to you and your family.

  20. Dearest Marc... There are no words that can fully convey my sympathy. I lost my mom ten years ago and I still miss her so much, every single day. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman. Her picture depicts her as a thoughtful, caring person. I think she would be very proud of what you wrote in this post. You are a good son Marc.

  21. Marc, we're so sorry to hear of your mother's passing. What a beautiful lady she was, both physically and in spirit.

  22. Thank you, friends. I appreciate your kind words.

  23. I missed this earlier. I send condolences, sir.


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