Simplest debts are sometimes the hardest to repay |

Simplest debts are sometimes the hardest to repay

by Lorie Smith Schaefer

My brother called the other night. My baby brother, Loren. The one with three kids in college and more than a little gray hair.

A few weeks ago we threw a party to celebrate our mother’s 75th birthday. We wanted to thank a great mom fo … well … for being a great mom.

It was no small feat. I live 500 miles away from the senior mobile home park my parents now call home. The logistics of airline tickets and car rentals and arrangements involved many long distance phone calls and e-mails. My planner was bursting with sticky notes and reminders and to-do lists. But, hey, our mom is worth it.

It was also no small feat because we wanted everything to be just right. After all, we had been raised in a barn. Really. My brother and I spent our formative years living in a converted chicken shed next door to my grandparents’ farmhouse on the edge of an orange grove in Orange County, Calif. Friends thought it was a charming little house, but it was a barn nonetheless.

So pulling off a classy little shindig like this took some effort.

While I may be able to recognize “classy” when I see it, I can rarely do it on my own.

Barbecues and potluck suppers are about the extent of my entertaining experience. Thank goodness my brother married well. His wife really knows how to do this sort of thing. A regular Martha Stewart.

Our effort paid off. Bouquets of roses, hydrangeas, orchids, and stargazer lilies set the stage and filled the air with their fragrance.

Vintage photographs of our young, beautiful mother graced the walls and tables. The party went perfectly. Our mother was thrilled.

Three generations laughed and told stories through several bottles of wine and most of the afternoon. My cousins and I laughed about the fact that we were emptying the bottle of pedestrian (but delicious) White Zinfandel faster than the classier Chardonnay and Merlot. I’ve already promised my cousin Becky to have plenty of “that pink stuff” at the reunion this


My generation also laughed about how much we are beginning to look like the generation ahead of us, morphing into our parents as we spoke. We laughed about trying on glasses and having to decide which dead relative, which old family photo we would rather look like.

Finally, at the emotional peak of the party, Loren and I sniffed our way through a poem I had written for the occasion. Knowing neither of us could read it alone, we stood side-by-side, leaning on each other. We looked across the room to see our mother glowing. We had

made our mom proud of us one more time.

But as Loren and I spoke on the phone the other night, remembering the party, we both realized something. In giving our mother a party, in trying to thank her, we were given reminders of all the gifts we had been given.

We had been given great role models. People who continue to demonstrate longevity of life and love. Marriages that have gone past fifty years.

Vibrant men and women in their seventies and eighties who play golf, go fishing, surf the net, and hold hands.

They are a little smaller than I remembered and slower now, but I can still find them inside the fragile bodies, behind the thick glasses. It was reassuring to see that they were still themselves. Time has only changed their appearance, not their essence.

These people had made choices in their lives, lived with those choices and accepted them. Or made new choices and moved on. I doubt you could find a more content group of people than the ones in that room on that rainy Sunday in January.

Only one or two generations away from the “old countries” of Ireland and Germany, they had survived the Depression, World War II, and Korea to raise a crop of baby boomers without mishap in the midst of the turbulent ’60s. By doing so they showed us that is has never been easy to raise good kids. Never easy, but always possible.

Each generation faces a new set of challenges — immigration, poverty, war, drugs — but they must meet those challenges with love, faith, and a commitment to the task. Now it’s our turn.

See what I mean? We gave our mother a party. We tried to thank her for everything she’s done for us, but received even more from Mom, from Dad, from everyone who was there.

This family gave us the strong roots from which we grew our lives.

How do we say “thank-you” for all that? I guess we’d better do what they did — raise good kids, live our values, and take care of each other.

Like I said before, now it’s our turn.

Lorie Smith Schaefer and her husband have lived in Carson City for over 20 years. They have raised two daughters who are now in college. Lorie is a reading specialist at Seeliger Elementary School.