I tried to start a blog about a medical topic the other day. There are so many things to choose from that matter to me. But, there are just too many other thoughts and emotions in the way. I need to write about my mom. Her story is in front of other stories. I debated whether such a public forum is the place. It is. Mom is why and how I became a veterinarian.
My mom died a few Sundays ago. I held her hand as she died. I was able to talk to her over many hours and thank her for being my mom. She believed at her core that families reunite after death. Her brother died when I was sixteen. I like to picture them together again having a gin gimlet on a sunny celestial patio. She can move around again and there is probably a casserole in the oven. There is definitely a dog with her. My uncle is vibrant and has hair again. The cancer is gone from his chest. Somewhere, he has a boat.
Mom, others called her Diane, was born in 1934 in Tacoma in the same hospital where she eventually had heart surgery 18 months ago. She met my dad while they were in college at the University of Puget Sound and they married in 1954. My two brothers came along sequentially and then me. My parents divorced in 1982. She owned a Baskin and Robbins store for many years but I think she would say that being a mom was her life’s work. She took great pride in the fact that all three of us graduated from college and she was so proud that I am a veterinarian. It had long been her dream to live on Vashon Island. Her dream hadn’t involved a care center but that is how it worked out and she died in her apartment at Vashon Community Care.
I have wanted to be a veterinarian for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I always said that I was going to be a veterinarian but if I couldn’t get the grades I would own a pet shop. Animals were a safe haven. My mom was the cheerleader for that dream.
She always told me I could. She always believed in me.
We had an array of pets. I grew up in a dog centered house with dogs on the bed and mom making their food. They were family. We also had many cats but the dogs were the focus. One Westie, Heather, had puppies when I was in eighth grade. I got to stay home from school while they were born. I actually took care of Heather and the daughter, Kiltie, at the end of their lives as their doctor. Mom was really into Scotties and Westies. I mean really into them. My brothers and I are dealing with so many totes of Scottie and Westie figurines. There must be well over a thousand of them. She owned several real Scotties and Westies as well. She typically had two dogs at a time. Usually she owned a Westie and a Scotty but there was a Cairn terrier along the way. She was obsessed with the five Scottish terrier breeds (Skye, Cairn, Dandie Dinmont, West Highland White, and Scottie).
Mom encouraged me to apply for my first veterinary job when I was in high school. I worked as a kennel kid at the clinic where our dogs received care. She followed my grades and reminded me how much they mattered. She didn’t have much but gave to a fault to support me. She fed me and housed me when I was home from college. She made sure I had enough to get through and we had a good time together. She told me later that she cried every time I drove out of the driveway to go back to school. I understand this better now as a parent. Mom was the first person I called after I opened the letter offering me admission to WSU’s Veterinary school. She asked for nothing in return for her support, except perhaps that I take care of her forever. I hope that my brothers and I did that to her satisfaction. We certainly tried.
No matter what the deal or exchange rate may have been, her support was everything and is a debt I can never pay off. I can only hope to manage to pay it forward.
Timothy R Kraabel, DVM, DABVP (Canine/Feline Practice) Vice President, American Board of Veterinary Practitioners