I am blessed to have a mom who is special.
She is a woman of will. More than simply headstrong and determined, she is indomitable -- someone who cannot become overcome or subdued.
Spunky, determined, funny -- all these words describe Jackie Battley Gingrich. Her sparkling blue eyes, upturned mouth and constant activity belie her age. She is helpful, involved and active.
She has shaped me in many ways. She watched my ballet and band performances for hours, and cheered me on when I was down. She is convinced that I can do anything, and I almost believe it.
Most importantly, she has provided an example to me through her belief in God and her faith in him. She credits prayer, as well as medicine, for saving her life. She has served as a deacon in her church and still volunteers there.
She grew up in Columbus, Ga., the eldest of four children, and was diagnosed with polio at the age of four. "I do remember I could not go outside and play, so Mother pushed the crib slats next to the window so I could see the children outside playing," she told me recently. Her mother "did a lot of massaging, and that was my life. It must have been six months to a year before I got out."
She raced through college, earning a degree in math in just three years so her sister Carol could start college right after high school.
Mom taught mathematics at Baker High School in Columbus for three years. One of her students, Ruby Cantrell, class of '61, remembers her well. "She was always perfectly dressed and matched up. I just loved that teacher," Ruby said, smiling. "She was a leader, she made you feel so good that you felt you had to do something if she expected it -- she brought out the best in everyone."
My parents met when my father was a senior at Baker High School. They started dating when he was in college.
Mom left Columbus to live in Atlanta with three girlfriends. "Newt had a scholarship to go to Vanderbilt," she recalled. Mother, always practical, assumed that Dad would do what made sense. Instead, he moved to Atlanta and called on her.
They soon married, had two children and moved to Carrollton, Ga., where he taught college and she taught high school. Dad began to look into running for office. Mom had known that he was interested in politics before they were married. "That was part of the attraction -- I like politics," she said.
Mom was first diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 1978. She remembers going into her closet, crying and praying that she would live long enough for their children (my sister and me) to graduate high school.
Her prayers were answered: She's been given 33 more years and shows no sign of slowing down.
My father lost his first two congressional campaigns. After undergoing surgery and radiation, Mom and her two children continued to hit the campaign trail with him, determined to win.
Professional success did not secure personal success. In order to raise her two girls in an environment that she thought best for them, Mom asked for a divorce in the spring of 1980. When I asked her recently if she had made the right decision, her response was immediate: "No doubt about it. I never regretted it."
The three of us moved back to Carrollton, my sister and I graduated from high school, and time moved on.
In 2005, Mom was diagnosed with cancer a second time. After enduring surgery and chemotherapy, she ended up in a nursing home, her body exhausted by the treatment. After my sister and I had moved her in, we drove away crying, thinking that she would not make it out. But Mom never gave up hope, defied the odds, and -- through hard work and prayer -- moved into assisted living, then back into her own home, where she still lives.
A miracle. My mom's a miracle.
My daughter describes her as "very pretty. She is someone you can look up to ... strong and kind." My son says "she's fun."
What I love most about my mom is that she is ever-changing and growing, but remains the same at heart: focusing on patience to allow God to act, staying the same, by offering to come and cheer me on at a recent tennis match.
I'm thankful God answers prayer: my miracle mom. Happy Mother's Day.