The Heroines

Joye Oliver

is honored with a Brick from Karin Cox.

 Joye  Oliver She could do anything. She could make weatherproof galoshes out of bread wrappers and rubber bands; dinner for ten out of a couple of potatoes and a leftover piece of roast; an Easter dress just like the other girls' out of an old scrap of material. Every time she was faced with something that seemed impossible to me, I watched my mother triumph. I'm sure life hasn't handed my mother the things she hoped for as a 17-year old girl, leaving home in Grass Creek, Indiana to attend Purdue University. Four years later, instead of graduating with an Engineering degree, she was a divorced single mother of three, making her way to a new life in Texas. All alone, sometimes working two and three jobs, she raised my brother, sister, and me. Then, as if this weren't challenge enough, when she was 32, she adopted her late sister's six children.

When all but two of her nine children had moved from home, my mother went back to school to complete the education she had begun so many years before. In her usual indomitable fashion, she took 27 hours at Wichita State one semester (earning a 4.0) and the next semester took a record 37 hours (earning a 3.75). After only a year and a half (24 years after she started her degree at Purdue), she graduated with honors.

I can't remember a time in my mother's life when things were easy and I can't say that our family life was perfect, but she taught me that your character isn't measured by how perfectly you do things the first time, but how you finish. And that though the world is often unkind, we choose what we will be towards it; that our attitude determines whether a situation will be merely difficult or whether it will be impossible; and that a woman's will is one of the strongest forces on earth.

My mother's strength, determination, and faith got us through the worst of times. My mother has said that knowing what she knows now, she might do some things differently. I'm not so sure of this, because I don't think she would take ''no" for an answer, even from her former self. Besides, today she says she sees God's hand in each phase of her life, and that everything has happened for a good reason. But to me, her heroism lies in the fact that she always did her best, given what she knew. She expected the same of her children, and still does. If there is any justice, some day soon the energy she has put into her children and her life will be returned tenfold.

With the deepest admiration, daughter to mother and woman to woman, I hope to live my life in a way that honors my mother, reflecting a lesson we are still learning together--that loving yourself, and most importantly, forgiving yourself, is the only way to love others. This brick in the Plaza of Heroines is a tangible token of my gratitude and respect for a real-life heroine, an acknowledgment of the necessity and power of an enduring friendship, and the unlimited capacity we possess for compassion, forgiveness, and love.

Submitted by her daughter Karin Cox

September 5, 1998 (for Joye Oliver)