My Badass Mom

Everything I know about being a man I learned from a woman.

Michael Easter

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Doctors on Tuesday declared my mom “cured” from cancer. I wrote the following story about her for Men’s Health magazine about five years ago, as she was going through chemotherapy and radiation. I recently posted about her on my Instagram feed, and many people wanted to read the story. I figured I’d also share it below.

My mom got sober when my dad was in rehab. This was 1985. She was sitting in the bathtub sipping a vodka tonic and flipping through a paperback. It was the same book my father would be reading in his recovery program. She came across these lines: “Try to drink and stop abruptly. Try it twice.” After years of boozing and drugging, those words revealed an undiscovered truth: At 35, she, too, needed to clean up.

With their shared source of misery behind them, my parents found calm, and my mom soon became pregnant with me. But five months in, my dad, at 29, decided the party wasn’t over and that a pregnant, dry, drinking buddy was no drinking buddy at all. He walked out on his two-year marriage for good.

So there she was: alone, baby on the way, white-knuckling the wagon, no college education or money in the bank. The only things to her name were a failing women’s clothing store and our home — a bank-owned trailer on the side of a highway outside Ketchum, Idaho.

This was a rotten hand. The American dream isn’t so easy to find when you have two X chromosomes, an infant, and no help or degree. According to one estimate, the poverty rate of single mothers is five times that of married couples, and half of single mothers live in what the government calls “extreme poverty,” getting by on less than $200 a week.

So my mother folded. She closed the store, walked away from the trailer, and moved us to Utah to be near family. Despite the misgivings of her parents, who wanted her to take a safe job at the IRS, she started a business as an independent wholesaler of women’s clothes.

Have you ever played tug-of-war with a pit bull? It’ll pull until you quit or it dies. That’s Lynda Easter. She called on more clients, did more favors, and drove more miles than anyone in her industry. We ate a lot of takeout.

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Michael Easter

Author of The Comfort Crisis // Professor // Writing about physical + mental health, psychology, and living better 1x week // eastermichael.com