Where would I start? Charity begins at home, right? So, the first person that I would like to see take advantage of Mom’s Retirement Fund, is my own mother. Let me tell you a little about Mom: My mother is no June Cleaver. She can be sweet when she wants to be, but mostly, it’s very clear that she doesn’t want to be. And the older she gets, the harder it is to remember that she is even capable. But maybe she could have been more like June Cleaver, if life had allowed her to take that course. I say that because one of my earliest memories of her is when I was three years old, and I watched her from our living room window as she removed snow from the top of her car, then came inside to make snow cones for my older brother and me. But I have no memories of my mother ever being without a job outside of the home.
Instead, my parents used my father’s VA loan to buy a house when I was six, and both parents worked to pay the mortgage. Then my dad left when I was nine, and never looked back, or paid any child support. In those days, it was extremely difficult for a woman to find a job that paid well enough to take care of four children and a mortgage. A woman couldn’t even get a credit card in those days, without her husband. In this way, God and Affirmative Action blessed my mother, and she was hired as a Mechanical Helper (basically, a glorified floor sweeper) to work at Bethlehem Steel. Was she the best qualified? No, she wasn’t. Before studying for the written test, she knew absolutely nothing about tools, mechanics, or safety in a steel mill. She didn’t even meet the minimum body weight requirement for the job, and had to put on a good 10 pounds, after passing a written test, in order to get hired.
When she got the job, she became the first woman, and the first Black person to work in her department. For nearly 20 years, she worked the swing shift; meaning that she’d work several days from 3 p.m.-11 p.m., then from 11 p.m.-7 a.m., and then from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. The men there bullied her relentlessly because of her race and gender, and made her years there a living hell. They even went so far as to make not-so-subtle threats to her life; blatantly stating that they would cause her to have fatal “accidents.” As near as I can figure, understanding that mediocrity was not an option, my mom decided that since there was no way for her to be a good father and a good mother, she would be the best Mechanical Helper God ever created, at work, and the best tyrant of a “father” that she could be at home. She worked hard at Bethlehem, took advantage of opportunities that came her way, and became an electrician within the first few years of hire. And we, the four children she provided very well for financially, became the pressure relief valve for all of the bullying, fear, and anxiety she suffered daily, at the hands of her all-male co-workers.
One winter when I was 26, a car skidding on ice, slid into my mother’s lane while she was driving to work, and nearly killed her. She never fully recovered, and eventually took an early retirement from Bethlehem Steel. Today, my mother is 80 years old, and still lives in the house that she and my father mortgaged together. She never remarried. Two strokes in November 2019 left her short-term memory permanently damaged. She is also diabetic, walks with a cane, walker, or uses a scooter, and has a pacemaker along with diabetes. Mom did a pretty good job planning for her retirement. She owns the deed to her house, and could live the rest of her life in modest comfort, but for the extra help she now needs, as a result of aging and poor health. Although I’ve been told by different companies that Mom has some of the best health insurance available, the services she needs are not covered by insurance.
I’ve done the math. If she pays for what she needs out of pocket, she’ll be completely broke in approximately 3 years. All of her savings, including her house; gone. Why? Because the assisted living facility charges $4,500-$5,000 a month, and like an apartment rental, fees are expected to increase yearly. It doesn’t cost much less if she stays home and pays for the help to come to her. She has too many assets to qualify for public aid, yet not enough to pay for Assisted Living, should she live beyond another 3 years or so, which is a real possibility. At that point, she will only have her pension, which will cover less than half the total cost.
When she thinks about all those painful years of abuse that she endured from her co-workers at Bethlehem Steel in order to provide for us and save for her retirement, the thought of burning through her entire life’s nest egg in just a few short years, leaving nothing behind, brings her to tears. Even more unbearable is the idea that her money may run out before she passes away. Of course, I’d pay for it all myself, if I could. I’m her only daughter.
A lot of people do a lot of complaining about their parents; especially about the one who’s there for them the most: usually moms. I certainly have done my fair share, and so have my brothers. But here’s my humble opinion on complaining about your mom, most especially, if she’s a single mom; taught to me through life experiences: If you’re still alive to complain, then no matter how you feel she’s failed you, she’s still given you the one thing that no other human being could ever give you: Life.
Now, I’m aware that many people think that father’s give life when the egg gets fertilized, as if the egg is dead before fertilization? But think about it: how can something dead be fertilized? No, it took two living cells to create you; with the egg being the much larger of the two; and it was your mother who took all the risks to birth you into the world. Also, think about the fact that, even if you’re as old as a Baby Boomer like me, your mom had a choice to birth you into the world, or not; and that she literally could have lost her own life during the process. So, stop complaining about how wrong she was and what she did or didn’t do back then, and figure out how you can do better for her, today.
In 2011, after researching women’s health issues, I discovered that here in the U.S., thousands of women die every year due to pregnancy and childbirth; and not only are those numbers largely under reported, they’ve been rising steadily in this country, while decreasing in many others. Additionally, hundreds of thousands more suffer from other ailments associated with pregnancy and childbirth that can be temporary or permanent, including, having to be revived on the delivery table. My response at that time, was to create Birth-Day cards to celebrate moms every year on the day their child was born, with the thought of establishing a retirement fund for mothers over the age of 55 with the proceeds.
Mother moved from Arkansas when she was 18, and met my father in a small town in northern Indiana, where my brothers and I were born and raised. She is the oldest of what was six siblings, with 12 years between her and my grandmother’s second child. My aunts, uncles and I are so close in age, that I am actually older than two of them. Before she was a teen, she worked right alongside my grandmother, and the money she earned was used to pay household bills. I remember that Mom used to send money back to her mother in Arkansas, even after my father left, and if anyone in the family ever needed financial assistance, my mother was the “go-to” person. I can’t speak for my three brothers, but I know that my mom certainly helped me out that way, when I needed it most. But if she ever wanted or needed anything, she either had to be her own “go-to” person, or do without. Right now, she’s doing without.
Although my mother’s current situation makes me wish that I had stuck with the idea of establishing a retirement fund for moms back in 2011, I also realize that as long as she and millions of others are still alive and kicking, there’s time to make a difference; if not in my mother’s life, then maybe in your mother's life. Naturally, 100% of the funds collected through GoFundMe will be used to officially establish Mom’s Retirement Fund as a 501c3, and to support my mother, and as many other moms as funds will allow. However, a portion of every purchase you make from virtualvillagemom.com, donnarené.com, or birth-days.org, will also be used to support Mom’s Retirement Fund, in an effort to help my mother, and God willing, eventually, many other moms as well. Available items for purchase range from $10 - $4,000. For more information about Birth-Days and Mom’s Retirement Fund (MRF), go to: birth-days.org. The donation or purchase you make today is greatly appreciated.
Donna R. Turner, MPH, CHES, HSMI
If you choose to make a purchase rather than donate, then regardless of your age and experience, I recommend the instant digital download of Truth Talk: The Last Dating Advice You’ll Ever Need, found at virtualvillagemom.com. Truth Talk is the result of more than three years of research, and is an educational video designed to protect the physical and emotional well-being of women of all ages, as they engage in male/female relationships; but was specifically designed to appeal to girls between the ages of 12-18. Studies show that the earlier girls are exposed to this information (as young as 8 or 9), the more likely they are to put it to use. The e-book that inspired the video, earned 30 Continuing Education Credits from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing in April, 2020.
This video simplifies scientific research to help women understand the dynamics of male/female relationships. That is, for example, what it is that actually drives men to pursue women; why it’s typically easier for men to move on than women, once a relationship has ended; the biology behind why, and under what circumstances men don’t like to cuddle; the truth about HPV, where it comes from and which of the sexes is actually spreading it; why many men are slow to commit, the difference between the way sex affects males, compared to the way it affects females, and more. Interestingly, even older, married women with doctoral degrees, who believed they already knew everything they needed to know, found a few surprises in this video. Maybe you will too.
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