Marcia's 70th Birthday Adventure

My mother is celebrating her 70th birthday this week. She is probably mortified that I announced her age, but she shouldn’t be. She is, and always has been, a stunning woman. She has aged with grace and beauty. But her greatest beauty has always been on the inside. She is one of the most selfless people I have ever known. Always giving to others and putting others before herself. And her work ethic is unmatched.
Growing up, kids always loved coming over to my house because of my mom. In hindsight, I realize that many of the boys who stopped by did so because they had a crush on her, but I didn’t realize that at the time. She just had this spark that attracted people to her, especially young people. She understood them and had empathy, relating to them on their level and making them feel important and seen. It occurs to me now that I got my strength as a teacher from my mom. She modeled a natural instinct for struggling kids, kids needing to feel appreciated and loved. She gave me that gift and I am grateful.
My mom never went to college to get an education. Like many women of her generation, she opted for marriage and kids and all that went along with it. But, to this day, she is the hardest working person I have ever known. While raising me, she took on any odd job she could: baking cakes (I will never forget the roses made of frosting lined up in the refrigerator,) selling Shaklee products (remember that 80’s kids?) baking pasties (a Michigan delicacy, especially in the UP,) driving trucks for a construction company, painting houses and hanging wallpaper. She did it all.
Even in the midst of working every day, often into the night, my mom would always find time to do things to make my life better. When I was in elementary school, she made me a birthday cake in the shape of Barbie, her dress billowing out beneath her in cascades of frosting. For each of my friends, she made a smaller version that they could bring home with them. I was on top of the world for weeks because of that. When I was in middle school, sobbing about some pre-teen drama in the car before she dropped me off one morning, she stayed outside for almost an hour, just to make sure I was okay. When I was in high school, and developed a crush on a waiter at a restaurant in Grand Rapids, my mom would drive me an hour in and an hour back just to see him. Often, we would have to wait an additional hour just to be seated in his section. And, after all of that, I would be too nervous to talk to him, other than to place my order and blush into my menu. I couldn't count the times she made that drive. When I was in college, when the sleepless nights that came with a cat trapped in a dorm-sized room became too much, she took my brand new kitten in for several months. When I was married, she was a constant sounding board for my anxieties, frustrations and fears.
Today, she is no different. She is the one who will insist on driving into Grand Rapids, in the midst of freezing rain, just to pick me up from the airport. She will take my cats, often at a moment’s notice, when I book yet another trip. She will drive in to see me when I am sick, even if it means a two hour round trip for her. And she does this all while working full time with obligations and needs of her own.
And I know I am not the only one who benefits from her generosity. My mother has, her entire life, given of herself to make people’s lives better and easier. She is the first to visit if you are in the hospital. The first to shovel your walk or clean your house if you have fallen ill. The first to mow your lawn if your mower is broken. The first to cook you a meal if you have trouble getting out to the store. The first to sit with you if you are elderly and no longer have a companion. The first to drive you to a doctor's appointment if your car is in need of repair. My mother has, her whole life, put others and their happiness above herself.
And don’t even get me started on the plethora of animals my mom has sheltered, nursed back to health and rescued. Her heart is vast.
My mom didn't get to retire at 60 like many her age. She still works from morning to night, just like my Great-Grandmother before her. (She lived to 100 and worked until she was almost 80. And never an ounce of complaining.) I come from a line of tough and tenacious women and, for that, I will always be grateful. Mom lives in a small-town, lives a simple life and never asks for anything in return for her generosity. She works several jobs to keep food on the table for her and her husband, Art. She has never missed a bill. Never asked for any assistance. She even worked full time while fighting breast cancer, the nausea of chemotherapy not allowed to slow her down. Once she conquered cancer, she went to Lansing to visit with Governor Snyder, asking him to continue to fund Medicaid. She fought for others in her same position because she knew the fear of mounting medical costs in the midst of illness.
My mom has been saving for a trip for her 70th birthday for quite a while now. She has amassed a modest amount of money, enough to get her a hotel room for a few nights and some meals. But I would like my mother to have so much more than that.
It is because of all of this, that I have decided to start a go-fund-me-campaign for my mom. For her 70th birthday, I would like her to be able to take a much deserved vacation. If you know my mom, she loves the sun. She wants nothing more than to hop into her car and, in her words, “drive until I can feel the warmth of the sun on my skin.” She doesn't need much to make her happy and has never asked a thing from the people whose lives she has touched. But, I am hoping that anyone reading this might consider donating a small amount to allow her to get away from all her hard work for a bit with peace of mind. I’d like her to be able to enjoy a lovely beach with her husband, Art, and be able to spoil and pamper herself a bit. And I would like her to know that it was the people in her life, people she has cared about for so long, that helped to make it happen. I will, of course, be donating a fair amount on my own money, but I wonder if you, dear reader, might consider donating a small amount?
I don't have to tell you that my mom, Marcia Perkins, is worthy of the world. She has an open heart and vast love for her fellow man. It’s time she felt the vastness of that love in return.


Lisa VanZegeren
Grand Rapids, MI

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