My mom was fun. She was always active and looking to do fun activities with us as kids. Building snow castles after a winter storm, cleaning out the stream in the backyard to build a bridge for a bike trail, setting up a place for me to practice basketball, or setting up a makeshift batting cage with nets hanging from tree branches. My mom was very hands on, roll up the sleeves and get it done. She viewed herself as an athlete and anyone I met that grew up with her would instantly tell stories about my mom's athleticism. She was sarcastic and caring at the same time. A great listener who was always the one people came to when they needed to talk.
When I was in college she was introduced into our town's athletic hall of fame.
When my daughter was born, my wife gave me the above news article titled "Sheeley's stand gained recognition for female athletes". This article now hangs above our daughter's crib. The article is a photocopy and I can't seem to find the original version online but it talks about how my mom changed how my hometown of Tewksbury, MA viewed girls sports. It talks about how my mom ran track & field but for her to run, she had to run next to the boys "unofficially" because girls didn't have an option to run.
"It was difficult back then, that's for sure," said Sheeley. "I remember it being difficult to get practice time in the gym because the boys always had it. The boys sports were simply more important back then, but I didn't care, I just joined in with them."
Back then, girls sports didn't get covered in the school's yearbook. My mom tried to get the yearbook staff to come to the girls games, but they would never show up. My mom could have just given up and just let it go. But that wasn't who my mom was. My mom didn't give up.
Instead, the following year, my mom became the editor of the yearbook and just published the girls sports section herself. "For the first time in the school's history, there was a record of the girl sports and who played then." 1967 became the 1st time girls sports had any record of occurring in Tewksbury, MA.
My mom instilled this fight in me. I have countless stories that mirror this one. You don't like something, change it. You don't give up and you don't wait for someone else to do it for you. You just make it happen.
Flash forward to early 2004. I'm 25 and living with my mom. My father passed away a few years before. My mom is now dying of Cancer after battling it for over a year and everything has turned for the worst. I remember quietly asking if she was giving up, a reasonable ask given everything she had gone through that year while battling this horrible disease. My mom, with almost no strength left, lifted herself up, gripped her teeth, gathered herself with extreme focus, looked at me and said "I'm NOT giving up!" Those were the last words she said to me.