Lifelong memories reveal special mom

Inside the Fishbowl
By: Deric Rothe, Editor and General Manager
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“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me …” Psalm 23:4 Our phone rang late in the evening a few months back. I thought as I picked it up, “this can’t be good news.” It was my 22-year-old daughter, Achsa. She was scared and short of breath. She said it was “Baba,” my mother and her beloved grandmother, who was having chest pains. Achsa said it wasn’t terrible, but with Baba in her early 80s, she was afraid it might be her heart. What should she do? Of course I told her not to worry about bothering the staff at the emergency room in the Davis hospital. Baba need not be embarrassed or feel like she was overreacting. Just take her and have her checked out — now. My mother always thinks of others first. In my entire life, I have never seen her act with anything other than kindness and compassion. Whether it was the gardener, a foreign student attending UC Davis, a homeless person needing a ride, she would help anyone who asked. Though my sister, brother and I all had our moments, Mom never got angry, never yelled or punished. We talked it out and she offered love, encouragement and support. Growing up in Davis, the United Methodist Church was always a big part of our lives. My parents would bring home foreign students and young Christian missionaries every week. I remember one Christmas with three students from Ecuador. I was about 10 and they had a big present for me. I couldn’t imagine what it was. When I opened it, it was a can of ham. They were very proud and excited to give such a nice gift of ham. At 10, I didn’t know what to think, but I looked at my mom and she nodded, silently letting me know that in our house we are gracious. And thankful. So I thanked them, they were very happy and it was great. I don’t remember eating the ham but I suppose we did. My dad got a lot of attention. He was a community leader in Davis and very outspoken for human rights. He passed away a few years back and it was a huge loss for our family. My mom, however, like she always does, looked on the bright side of things. Though they were married for more than 50 years and she never even put gas in her own car, she knew dad was going to heaven and she would be with him in the future. She was strong, gracious, cheerful and thinking of others even through the memorial service and his burial. She set an example for all of us. Over the past few years I have grown even closer to my mom. We talk on the phone almost every day. Until recently, every Tuesday night we would meet at El Pollo Loco in Sacramento for dinner. My mom likes the caramel dessert. On Friday nights during the fall, I took her to all the Placer High football games. We were swept up in Montoya mania. My mom’s favorite player was Asher Gotzmer. I think partly because his name sounds like her granddaughter’s, Achsa, but mostly because he is such an exciting player. I was always proud to take my mom to games. Even my few friends who sometimes attended with me were cool with Roberta Rothe coming along. Mom is always upbeat, fun, and ready for anything. I took her rafting when she was 80. She attended many of our younger daughters’, Paige and Lanae’s, ski races. She went to the state high school championships at Mammoth last year and to Mt. Shasta this year, cheering on her granddaughters and the Placer High girls ski team to back-to-back state championships. In sports, and in life, there are thrills of victory and agonies of defeat. Mom is positive, thoughtful, encouraging and rock steady whether winning or facing adversity. I, on the other hand, sometimes live and die with the play by play. It turned out my mother did not have a heart attack. But when they scanned her chest at the emergency room they found what turned out to be lung cancer. Further doctor visits, which have been numerous, have found cancer in her brain and spine as well. When I heard her diagnosis it was like getting run over by a train. But my mom has remained brave, always smiling, even joking around. She told me all she ever wanted was to be a mother and to raise a family. She has done that well. Though she is a Fresno State graduate, and she worked for many years as a supervising counselor at UC Davis, her family and faith always came first. While enduring radiation, chemotherapy, losing her hair, being probed and prodded and taken from one doctor’s appointment to another almost daily, she is strong and happy. She is still more worried about those helping her, her children and her grandchildren, than she is about herself. My mother is the most loved person I have ever known. My entire family is taking shifts with her at her home where she lives with my daughter, Achsa, a UC Davis student, and two English bulldogs, who sleep with her on the bed — much to my sister’s and the doctors’ dismay. Today, our family, cousins, nieces and nephews and more will celebrate Mother’s Day with her. We love her so much, it’s crazy. And she loves each one of us back, no matter what. I told my mom losing her would seem like End Times. She smiled and said my loss was my dad’s gain. He has been waiting for her in heaven. She will fight to the end with dignity, a bright smile, deep faith and grace — with no fear whatsoever. She has no regrets. Today, if there is a woman you love, tell her. There is nothing more precious. This column, as you have guessed, is a tribute to my mom, something I have never done in 20 years of journalism, though she deserved this many years before. My mom is always looking up, both literally and figuratively. Mom, this one’s for you.