For My Mom and My Wife

A few words on the two most important women in my life (though three more are a close second) who have helped me become the man I am today.

My mom was an incredible, self-made woman.  The oldest of three sisters, she overcame quite a bit in her adult life and taught me much along the way.  My biological father abandoned us when I was two when we were living in California far from the rest of her family.  My father left one day while my mom was at work, leaving me home alone to fend for myself.  After that, she picked up the pieces and we then moved back east to my grandparents’ house in New Jersey.  A couple of years later, she met and married my adopted father, a disabled Vietnam veteran.  He was a good man, with his own tragic story which I’ll save for another time.

I think I hear John Denver cuing up a song...

My mom fostered my interests in all things science and science fiction.  She took me to see Star Wars when I was two and then bought early copies of them on videotape so I could watch them over and over. She would buy me any toy that helped foster my creativity from Lego to Lincoln Logs to Star Wars toys to Robotix; there was nothing she wouldn’t get for me.  She introduced me to video games, her favorite was the Legend of Zelda on the original Nintendo, and would bring me in to finish the hard parts.

My mom also taught me a lot about relationships.  She taught me that a marriage required hard work, patience, understanding, and perseverance if it was to last.  She guided my adopted father through his recovery from alcoholism and his struggles with the trauma of war.

My mom showed me that you could succeed and excel in life through hard work and dedication.  Professionally, she remade herself as needed.  She started as a draftsmen, then moved to retail for a while, before returning to a technical field and becoming a self-educated civil engineer.  She eventually found herself as the second-in-charge at a small civil engineering company in the Philadelphia Suburbs.

My mom also passed on to me a love of animals.  She never met an animal that she wouldn’t try to take care of, be it cat or dog or bird or deer or even skunk.  She fed them, cared for them, and protected them as best she could.

My mom was extremely proud of my career at NASA.  She loved to call me from her car on the way home from work and talk to me about the job.  She thought it was amazing when I traveled to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.  I don’t remember seeing her more excited when she came to visit and I was able to give her a tour of Johnson Space Center.


My wife is the mother of three daughters.  She encourages them in every way.  Be it through dance or gymnastics or reading or trips to the zoo or museum, she tries to grow them any way she can.  She sets no limits for them and encourages them to try anything and everything. She emphasizes to them that they can grow up and do whatever they want to do; the only thing that limits them is their dreams.

My wife buys me video games to play with them at every opportunity.  She loves it when they sit with me to play a round of Super Mario Galaxy or we play together for Wii Party.  She wants them to enjoy the same things their Daddy does.

My wife tries to pass on to them a love of nature.  We take trips to the mountains of Colorado or visit farmland in Mississippi where she will introduce them to the outdoors, to wildlife, and to the beauty of the natural world.

My wife recognizes the moment and when something is important to my daughters, she makes sure that I am there, doing what I need to do. My wife is a tireless mom, going from appointment to appointment, place to place, store to store, wherever they need her to go.

My wife is a wonderful role model for them, intelligent, hard-working, patient, sincere, fun-loving, family loving, and kind.

The great tragedy in all this is that my oldest daughter was born on January 31, 2005 and my mom died on February 12, 2005.  The greatest sorrow I hold is that my mom never knew her grandchildren.  She would have loved them, absolutely loved them.  I can only wish that my wife and my mom would together have shown them how great a woman can be.  My wife and her mom are more than up to that task, but there are plenty of days when I dream of what might have been.