Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom

As you know, from time to time I move away from racing to write about other things.  These detours have been caused by Boston sports championships and, sadly, obituaries of close friends.  This detour is to honor a woman who, by her presence and influence in my life, has made my life a better place to be: my mom.

Sophia Kokoreas was born 70 years ago today to Louis and Kay Kokoreas, first generation Americans living in the Greek-American bastion of Peabody, Massachusetts and named for her grandmother, Sophia.  While my grandfather was hoping for a boy, she became the apple of his eye.  My aunt still tells my mom that she was "always Daddy's favorite!".  She grew up a smart and lovely young woman with passion for the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots that has only grown deeper over time.  She graduated from Salem Hospital School of Nursing and started on her lifelong career of helping people in her hometown.  She married my dad, the original Ted Grevelis, a few years later and proceeded to settle in Peabody and raised their two kids, my younger sister and I.

Mom has been a guiding light all of our lives.  Many decisions in my life are based upon the answer to the question: What would my mom think of this?  She and my dad continue to be trusted advisers and sounding boards to this day.  When Dad was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes, she took it upon herself as her mission to keep him healthy.  While a devastating illness, Dad, at 77, has lived over 25 years with diabetes without having to move to insulin shots - a direct result of my mom's love and care. 

She is the religious compass of the family (and by "family", I use the Greek definition of extended family, not just the immediate family).  We kiddingly call her a 'born again Orthodox" because of her commitment to the Church since her retirement.  While we joke with her about this, it was the only time she was able to give time to the Church.  Why?  Because she was busy working night shifts and double shifts at J.B. Thomas Hospital to help make sure that her children could get the education she wanted for them while still being there after school when we got home.  Ever try that?  It's tough and I could never thank her enough for it.

She could be stern when we were growing up, but then again, we needed stern.  Well, I needed stern, my sister didn't - though because of me she got it anyway!  While my mom and Aunt Joyce alternated Thanksgiving and Christmas, my mom was Easter.  Easter is the biggest holiday on the Greek Orthodox calendar and some of my happiest memories of childhood revolve around Easter at my parents' house.  There were years, especially when I was in high school, that my parents would just open the house and load a table with food and we'd have over 60 people come through the door throughout the day eating and socializing.  You know the engagement scene from My Big, Fat Greek Wedding?  That was Easter at our house. It was such a looked forward to event that my friends would ask me when "Greek Easter" was every year so they could set aside the date!

Time marches on and I moved away, first to college then to Washington DC.  I spent some time back at home for a bit and then moved halfway around the world to Guam, then Vegas and now Minnesota.  Mom and dad are retired, but that didn't stop mom from starting up a parish nursing program at St. Vasilios church, the church of my youth. She's busier now that she ever was!! But no matter where I go, a piece of my heart remains in Peabody.  She was my first Valentine and always retains a special place in my heart.

I love you, mom.  Have a great day!

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