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Tricennial

Dear Mommy,

I’ve been at a bit of a loss on what to give you to commemorate your retirement, and although I’m not sure I’ll be satisfied with this either, I decided to go with what I do best (I think, anyway): words. I’d have liked to maybe read this out at your ceremony or something like that, but my understanding was that the schedule was pretty regimented, and considering my track record for giving you extra things to worry about at the last minute, I figured I’d spare you and make do with giving this to you elsewhere. I apologize that this will be doubling as a Mother’s Day gift a little bit—but for me, your career and your being my mother aren’t really separable, so hopefully it’ll all make remarkable literary sense and this will be so impressive.

I don’t say that to mean that your children were your real job or any sort of conflation like that (although I know we were Work). What I mean is that you brought the same earnest, effort, and care to both roles regardless of environment. I often had no idea what it is you actually did at work, but I never felt like I didn’t know you there compared with how I’ve known you as my mom. You’ve always been true to who you are, and maybe that’s not such a rare thing, but it has been incredibly significant to me as I’ve grown and continue to grow into my own person.

I say all this while also recognizing that although I always knew you at work, I’m not sure if everyone at work would have recognized you at home, and I feel like I’m actually a little lucky for that because I’ve gotten to see all the ways that the big things in a person’s life can fit together when you wouldn’t expect helicopter parts and your kids’ Pokémon obsessions to resemble each other that much—and perhaps they don’t at all, because it’s not about the wrenches and Pikachu but about the people they affect. It’s clear both when you talk to me for roughly ten minutes and when you talk to anyone who has worked for, with, and above you that your impact is meaningful and memorable. Maybe even “legendary” 😛

I’ve written briefly before about how you defined integrity for me—”Doing the right thing even if it’s not the right time”—and I’ve been mulling that over for more than half of your time in the Coast Guard. I’ve seen where you try to live your life this way with us and with what I’ve heard about your work, and I think it could be a pretty apt characterization of your approach to pretty much everything you do. Although it’s taken years of contemplation, I think I understand pretty well what you were trying to tell me at the time, and I try to live my life the same way. I’m grateful both for my outrageous memory that’s been able to hold onto this idea and for the source of it. Thanks, Mom.

I brag about you and tell people I have big shoes to fill all the time, and I’m so proud to call you my mom. Congratulations on thirty years.

Love,

Jerrika, Jerri, Jerr Bear, C’mere, Stop That, Sweet Pea ❤

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