On the surface, Peyton Manning and my mother are two people who would seem to have absolutely nothing in common, right? Well in the very complicated world that is my mind, the answer is not as simple as right or wrong! The truth is they are quite different individuals, and represent a lot of separate qualities, which I admire. However, they share one very significant quality that I have grown to admire more and more as life goes on.
Of course as I compare the quality in Peyton Manning, to my mother, one must understand that I rate my opinion of Peyton on what I have come to know of him in the public eye. Please understand that I have more than a passing fascination with Peyton’s athletic ability. As a die-hard University of Tennessee football fan, born with orange blood, I followed Peyton’s explosion into the sports world from his freshman year at UT, until the present. Interviews, articles, appearances, commercials, books, you name it. It is my Ernst opinion that you can from time to time fake to the public what you want them to see, but when you consistently present a genuine modesty, humility, respect to your fellow athletes, and a generosity of spirit at all times notable, then you are the real deal. Although Peyton broke records, performed flawlessly on the field, and rather than go to the NFL early, stayed behind for his last year of eligibility to finish his Masters degree, which he probably would never utilize in terms of the normal working class world. I believe that was about bettering himself, becoming the best person he could be in the circumstance he was living. He was offered a full college education, and he was going to get that education.
Like Peyton, my mother was a person who I came to understand, always took the most from every situation in life that she existed in. What I mean to portray about my mother, if she had gone to college, she would have finished. Mom was an almost compulsive over achiever, always the leader of the group, planning things, adding the extra flair to the party, excelling at her job, taking on extra responsibilities, becoming the best cook, the best seamstress, the best crotchetier, etc…She lived to get her recipe published in the Zephyrhills newspaper as the favorite of the week, win the costumer contest or to see her name on the bulletin board at Beal’s for closing the most credit applications. Mom’s drive to be at the top of the heap made her someone you didn’t want to play Wii bowling with! Even in casual competitive events with family or friends, she wanted to win! As I matured and grew up, I learned that much of this behavior was Mom’s desire to seek approval from those in her life; she felt she had to constantly prove herself, constantly earn your love. She once told me that she never felt much love from her mother who paid her no mind compared to her brothers, and that her father’s alcoholism consumed him and left him less than compassionate. Despite her seemingly dismal upbringing, my mother was someone who always had a smile for anyone she encountered, and you would think she was the happiest person in the world. Since we create our own reality, I think she was happy, and/or knew how to get herself to the happy place.
This leads me to the point where I notice the “shared quality” that I admire so much in Peyton Manning, and my mother. Still doesn’t make sense? Ok, then I will explain myself. During Peyton Manning’s career from college to the pros, anyone who has followed his career knows he has certainly had his setbacks and critics. After a stunning college career, he lost the Heisman, failed to beat the Gators, and left UT just one year prior to them winning the National Championship (although he did walk with some jewelry). Critics, particularly those in the sunshine state ridiculed him, saying he was over, would never make it in the NFL, blah, blah, blah…did you ever see Peyton Manning so much as blink? Express one moment of doubt? Ever speak out to the negative comments? Nope, he just focused on the positive and moved on with his career. Seems the same is true to this day. When he wins, he will point to the O-line and say couldn’t do it without them, or give his receivers the props, almost never does he take the credit he deserves for his hard work and dedication. Further to this, no matter what his injury is or has been, he will just smile and say, “yeah it hurts, it’s an aggravation, but I’m hear, and I’m going to do my best today”. Congratulations Broncos! I hope you make the Superbowl this year!! You got yourself a Hall of Famers, who apparently still isn’t done breaking records!
What can I say about my Mom, except she was exactly the same way! I remember when I had the measles; my Mom caught them from me, which is kind of dangerous for adults. Well Mom just put a turtleneck on to hide it, and went right on to work. Never missed a day! When Mom was first diagnosed with cancer, wasn’t even symptomatic, and she went in for the lobectomy, it was horrible!! Having never given in to the smallest of colds, this was a shocker for her! Then they messed up her spinal block, and apparently had no numbing, then had a pain pump that had never been unlocked!! Three months later, it was like it never happened. She literally never talked about the surgery, never talked about cancer, never seemed to worry about anything except going back to work! To me, Mom was a complicated person. But, Mom really had the outlook that I admire so much, “It might not be perfect, but I’m here! And as long as I’m here, I’m going to make it the best it can be”. I don’t believe that my Mom wasted one minute of her life. I truly envied that about her, all the hobbies, friends, interests, and activities to occupy her time.
I knew when the doctors finally diagnosed Mom’s end stage cancer some ten years later, that she wouldn’t live very long. I wanted all of the children to be with her when the news came, you know, to give her strength. We all stood there by her side, holding her hand, waiting for her to react. Finally I asked her, “Mom, you ok?” She scanned all of us and said, “What are you all looking at? I’m 80 fucking years old! It’s not like I was going to live forever!!” The doctors said Mom might live anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months depending on her other health issues. But that day, Mom just stopped eating, would just say how tired she was, wanted to sleep, and with the exception of a few days of lucidity, we pretty much lost her right then and there. I really can’t recall the exact timeline, but I think she officially died about 10 days later at Hospice. As you might imagine, despite being consumed with cancer, she accepted two doses of morphine, and that was it. She basically just went to sleep. When she could no longer say, “I’m here and I’m going to make the most of it!” Mom left us with the most dignified exit I can imagine. Yep……….hero.