By Stephen Paul VanDruff
Written and presented to Eleanor at her 80th birthday party, 9 years before her death.
Love emanates from my mother in every way imaginable. Quickly meet her as a stranger and you'd feel it. To know her, you can't help but recognize her stewardship as an untarnished example of Christian faith. To be her son is a gift from God.
Eleanor LOVES people. A tireless conversationalist, she'll talk to anyone, about... well, anything. She can make the most uncomfortable subjects seem so normal or ordinary. To the sick, distraught, unsightly or even dangerous looking person she'll break into conversations that are amazingly bizarre. She'll freely converse on topics from cancer to constipation as comfortably as hairdos or recipes--amazingly enough, sometimes in the same sentence! With warm, gregarious charm, no grocery store clerk or strange passer-by is safe from her smile and colorful comments like, "What beautiful skin tone you have, are you Lebanese?" or "Did God bless you with that hair...or is that a perm?" always delivered and accepted with the greatest of ease. A master of people, she has the graceful talent to get people to open up to her. Give Eleanor 5 minutes, she'll have your life story.
Kibba, cabbage & grape leaf rolls, fataya, tabooli, hashwa and baklahwah are just Lebanese cuisine unless you've experienced these foods from the heart and hands of my mother. She pours love into her cooking and has served our family, friends, guests, the sick, the poor, or even strangers like royalty.
Of course she couldn't boil water when she got married at the age of 31. She reinvented herself from talented beauty queen into a devoted wife, mother and social entertainer extraordinaire. But in my lifetime, Eleanor has always been revered for her cooking. Yet I'd be remiss not to mention her experimental pursuits as a health food pioneer. This resulted in some interesting concoctions, to say the least. Some were great; but some, Ay-Chi-Wa-Wa. She was well ahead of her time and I laud her for her efforts in teaching us healthy eating habits.
Recollections of my motherís smooth, sultry voice go from songs like "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" and "Ten Thousand Angels" sung in church, to a soft bedtime song that made the world seem a safe and wonderful place. "Good Morning Pretty Red Rose" was a song that was often my alarm clock as a child. Her father sang it to her, and now I sing it to my children. I am deeply grateful for the gift of music my mother brought to our family.
Being born in 1920 and living through the Great Depression and World War II era, my mother's generation has a unique perspective on life. Her values from birth were God & family and it's clear this created her huge heart for people. Her sole joy in life is doing things for others. My mother has never gone to a day spa, or a hair stylist, or gotten a manicure, or spent virtually anything on new clothing. She lives her life for the people around her. What a strikingly unique and remarkable woman she is.
Christ-like, loving, family-oriented, caring, giving, honorable and dignified are qualities that describe my mother. And she raises the bar on all of the them. This is who she is, what she does, and all I've ever known her to be. I am blessed and honored to be her son.
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