She was born poor. Born poor and raised in the housing projects of Dallas. Born poor and raised in the projects and her alcoholic father split. Born poor and in the projects and in a broken home, and then at 17 she got pregnant.
But Linda didn't whiff. Somewhere deep in that troubled plot lived a spirit that longed to soar.
Linda aspired for a better life.
She always was a worker. She cleaned houses and baby sat and then fooled the manager at Kentucky Fried Chicken into hiring her at age 13.
When Linda got pregnant, her mother told her to get an abortion. Instead, Linda decided to keep the baby and was kicked out of the house. So she married her boyfriend, the father of the child.
Linda worked days at J.C. Penney's and helped her husband deliver newspapers at night. But he was a boy trying to live a man's life, and he hit her, and soon enough, she moved out.
So much for that better life. Except for that little dash of sunshine who had come along.
Linda had wanted a girl. She was going to name it Erica, after the character on All My Children. But then came this rambunctious little boy who melted her heart. She named him after a Dallas Cowboy; he was the best thing in her life and she let him know it.
She danced her baby around the room to a Marvin Gaye tune, "You gave me a reason for living ... taught me the meaning of giving..."
Linda threw her life into her son. Oh, she got married again, and this marriage didn't take either, but she always had her boy. She loved him with a love that made the rest of the world insignificant by comparison. No one would ever make her feel small, because she was that boy's mother. She lost jobs when her boy was sick and she stayed home with him, but her parents chipped in, and a fractured family started to heal.
Linda set no limits on her son. He was a bundle of energy, playing ball and popping wheelies and bouncing off walls.
Today, she figures, they would put him on Ritalin and label him with attention deficit disorder. But Linda took that energy and channeled it into passions that consumed her boy.
He learned from his mother a work ethic, the drive to give 110 percent. And a positive attitude. Linda had fallen low, but she always picked herself up.
That trait would come in handy, when her boy grew up to great success, only to face a mighty medical foe.
Linda finally hit rock bottom then. All her life, she had run interference and helped fix things for that little boy. A baby-sitter once warned her about treating him like a precious little prince, but Linda saw nothing wrong with making him the center of the universe.
This, she couldn't do anything about. She was powerless. But she had empowered her son.
And today he is healthy. Healthy and successful and a father himself, of three children, and Linda is most proud of him for the job he does with those three little centers of the universe.
Linda no longer lives in Dallas. She found the love of her life and moved to Tulsa. Says she adores Oklahoma.
But not like she adores that little boy who grew up to harness all that energy and all that love.
And so on this fine Sunday morning, a salute to Linda, who sought a better life and found it with and for the boy who grew up to climb not just Mount Cancer but the Alps in the biggest bike race of them all.
Happy Mother's Day to Linda Armstrong Kelly, Lance Armstrong's mother.