My mom has always given me the two things I needed most: unconditional support, and space. Growing up, it was just us. My dad was sick from the time I was about 12, and eventually passed when I was in high school. So growing up, my mother was 'my parents' - whether I knew it at the time or not.
I decided a long time ago, probably somewhere in high school, that I didn't want to ask for anything, ever. My mom did so much, and did enough. But also, I was stubborn (still am in many ways) and didn't want anything, unless I could have it my way. Maybe I wasn't stubborn, maybe I was a bit Frank Sinatra. That's nicer. I was Frank Sinatra. So I (tried) to refuse to ask for things. I was a kid, so I failed a lot. But I tried. I got a job, I handled my business wherever I could. I also needed to know what it meant to be a 'man' - but all I had were examples of other dads, or tv dads, or bad stereotypes. So.
I still need to find that one out.
But I had my mother.
She taught me things when I wasn't looking.
I learned a lot through osmosis. I watched the way she was with people - with her students, with doctors, with friends. I absorbed most of who I am from her.
She was my role model, my translator of life.
She decided in 1981 that would love me unconditionally. I was there for that, I remember.
She chose to support me in whatever I was planning, regardless of what she thought. And sometimes, she thought my ideas were harebrained I'm certain - most kid ideas are - but she supported unconditionally, without imposing her opinion on my plans. And she gave me space. She didn't try to solve things for me. She'd let me work them out. Work myself into frustration, into tears, and eventually, into a solution. She didn't meddle. She trusted that her support was enough. And for me, it always has been.
( I watch now as my sister has a kid who is a lot like I was. Smart. Stubborn. Cute - obviously. Isabella. And my sister, Juanita, whether she knows it or not, does for Isa what our mother did for me. She supports her - even when her ideas are nuts! - and gives her the space to solve it. Osmosis. )
And if I ever needed advice, or a soundboard, or a fresh point of view, she was there, and is there.
I watch her with my nieces, her grandchildren, and I remember my childhood, and how lucky I was to have someone there whose guidance was ever present, but also had a light touch. And I think about how hard it must have been to be both mom and dad, plus human being, and primary-caregiver/wife.
People talk all the time about the strength of their moms, and how special they are. I know we all feel that way about our parents. But in this case, holy shit! Raising 3 kids, taking care of a dying husband, as a teacher who's also responsible for 30-60 other kids all of whom are ESL, while simultaneously trying to be HAPPY!? That's real strength right there.
Mothers are this amazing thing, because there is no manual. You simply become mother.
Then become Ma, or Mom, or Mumsie.
And there will be challenges, daily, ranging from 'why won't he sleep' to 'where's my milk' to
'will the tube hurt him'. (read the article at this link written by my friend Katie who speaks openly and honestly on losing her beloved Lochlan 22 days into a rich, full, well-loved life)
Big challenges, small challenges. And decisions made in an instant.
But you're somehow equipped, simply because you are now MOM.
It's amazing. It really is something special. And I get to watch my sisters go through it, best friends, old friends, and it's beautiful to see each person change ever so slightly, to see them grow, to watch them become familiar to me as they embody things that I never knew were hallmarks of my own childhood. The MOM dust that gets sprinkled doesn't miss the mark.
And now, as an adult, I have a new type of mother as well. A Mother-in-law.
Catherine's mother, like my mom, has gone through an entire lifetime of growth, of struggle, of joy, of pain. Every mom has, or will. What's fascinating, is that it's invisible to everyone but their children. Catherine knows the ins and outs and ups and downs of her mother, the way we each do about our own. But from the outside, it's a different thing. It's something else that can't entirely be seen, or quantified, or qualified.
The mom dust is still there, but it's not the same. It's like with pheromones, certain animals can simply smell their mates, or their kin, and to the naked eye there's no distinction, but they just 'know'.
A kid always knows mom (click to watch)
So this is new, because I don't know her 'mom', not like that. It's, different.
And I'm learning what 'mother-in-law' means to me, and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to learn, and grow with someone else sprinkled with the dust. No matter how difficult the journey feels at time.
I'm grateful for everything my mother has given me, but these two things are what helped me get to where I am today, quite literally. The support to follow my dreams, no matter what they were at the time, and where they might take me. And the space to figure things out for myself, no matter how long it takes.
Ma, today I'm grateful for the freedom you've offered to let me be who I am and chase what I believe in. I'm far away today. I think it's the first mothers day (and birthday tomorrow) where I'm too far away for a hug, but know that I'm thankful for everything you do, for the love and support you have always shown me, the love and support you have extended to Catherine, and for all that you are.
I'm enjoying watching you grow older (not old :) just older) and seeing you chase the things you are passionate about as you have always taught me to do. It's pretty special to watch, as an adult, how you are with your grandkids and I look forward to the day that those grandkids are my kids instead of my nieces, and to share that with you.
Most of all I wish you health and continued happiness.
Happy Mother's day Mom.
Happy Mother's Day Tara.
Happy Mother's Day Juanita, Denise, Kelly, Ramona, Nanaba, Dine, Meg, Erin, Una, Anne, Ann, Alice, Jenny, Elena, Andrea, Hayley, Natalie, Shantelle, Katie, Jodi, Julia, Jessica, Victoria, Allison, Jessica, Celine, Kate, Andrea, Jamee, Melissa...and so many more that I'm missing here....all of you!