The following is a draft that I began in January of this year. As the events of the past few days have unfolded, I can’t help but think that now is the perfect time to add to and publish this one.
Post that was begun in January:
This past weekend, my sisters and I were visiting and sharing frustrations about people who appear to be one thing, but are actually something quite different. I believe terms like “two-faced” were thrown around in the conversation. We agreed on many points, especially the one about our mom, Sue Haeger. She is one of a kind. One of the best things about my mom? You get what you get. Mom is genuine to the core: she tells it like it is. She does not put on airs, where she could have been tempted to do so.
My dad comes from a bit of an elite background. His father was a doctor, his mom was a stay-at-home mom who possessed both class and style. Ross and Mary Haeger, my paternal grandparents, were wonderful people. They raised their five children in Oak Park, Illinois, where the kids wanted for very little. Mom grew up in Lewistown, Montana, the fourth of 11 children born to Red and Selma Hanley. Red and Selma Hanley, also wonderful people, raised their 11 children in Lewistown. Mom’s childhood was, perhaps, a little different than Dad’s.
My parents met in a bar in Davenport, Iowa, where they were attending college (St. Ambrose for Dad, Marycrest for Mom). It was the meeting of two different worlds. As those two worlds came together, Mom could have been tempted to be somebody she wasn’t, but she brought her authentic self to the table. Always has, always will. She is a jeans-and-t-shirt no frills dresser, who lets a fairly frequent “F-bomb” slip through her lips. It doesn’t matter the company she is with: Sue Haeger is Sue Haeger.
It blows my mind that these words were written 8 months ago because the essence of the above description has been repeated so many times in the last several days. On Thursday, our mom received a grim cancer diagnosis. As we continue to reel from the shock, we also continue to be humbled by the outpouring of support.
That support speaks to who Mom is. As proprietor of the Corner Tap for 40 years, Mom wears many hats. First and foremost, she is Reed Haeger’s wife. Mom and Dad have been married for 54 years, and remain the model for what marriage should be.
Second, Mom is… well, a mom. The four of us are grateful every day for the model of parenting she has provided. It’s perhaps not the typical model – we do not have a June Cleaver on our hands. We have a mom who has always been there for us and who has let us be who we are. As I wrote in March, “Kahlil Gibran’s words continue to ring loud in my ears. As I said in January: I believe my efforts now could be focused on lifting them [my children] up as the people they are (not who I want them to be.) My parents, Reed and Sue Haeger, cornered the market on this concept. We were always
allowed encouraged to be who we are. Their parenting style was rather “hands-off.” What I appreciate most about this style is that my parents seemed to have perfect clarity about what it means to let your kids be who they are (’cause they’re going to be, anyway!).”
Third, Mom is a sister and a sister-in-law. She is now the oldest of her six remaining siblings. She continues to stay in touch with all of them; they are incredibly important to her, and she to them. Our aunt Jane, Dad’s sister, called yesterday to express her love and support. During that phone call, among many golden nuggets of wisdom, Jane reminded us that she has always thought of Mom as a best friend because “Sue has always been herself. She is authentic.”
Fourth, as proprietor of the Corner Tap i.e. “Grandma’s Store,” Mom is a counselor, mentor, confidante, friend, and second mother to many who walk through that tavern door. Mom has a second family in the patrons that have faithfully supported the business. These are the people who have extended their unwavering support over many years, and who have come together since Thursday to be there for Mom.
When the news of the Stage 4 cancer diagnosis came in on Thursday, my brother Ross was the first to receive it from/with our parents. He quickly reached out to my sisters and me and we spent the afternoon communicating with texts and phone calls while finishing up the work day.
As Mom and Dad drove home from Iowa City, Mom sent the four of us a text that read, “Need my kids and wine.” By 6:00 that night, we began gathering. Katie aborted a bike ride and promptly began the trip home from Terre Haute, Indiana – a five hour drive. As Thursday night unfolded, we watched Mom deliver the news to her faithful patrons and staff, one by one. The grandkids, and the one (so far!) great grandchild, started trickling through the door.
We sat together in support of this amazing woman. We sat together trying to process this unbelievable diagnosis. We sat together in love.
Whatever this journey brings, we know that Mom has the love and support of many. We know that the one and only Sue Haeger will remain the authentic person that she always has been.
Written six years ago in celebration of Mom’s 70th birthday:
A Montana Girl
Of Red and Selma
Emails and phone calls
Of Reed Haeger
Traveling across the country
And smaller weekend
Of Katie, Jenny, Megan, Ross
Often checking in
Sometimes with late night texts
Always there when needed
Makes all smile with
Birthday cereal and comics
Expresses pride at every turn
Of the Corner Tap for
Who are made to feel like family
Of many interests
Kept orderly in lists
Wine, politics, gravel travel
This is our mom