Happy Mother's Day! As one of my steadfast readers, I know you'll see this. And I'm posting it here for a number of reasons -- 1) I wanted you to always be able to come here to see it, and know how much I love you, 2) I wanted anyone who comes across it to know how incredible you are, and 3) it won't fit on the inside of the card I bought you.
Now that I'm a mother myself, I have so much more of a sense of what you must have gone through in raising me and the boys. I have so very many memories of the adventures we all had while I was growing up, and as I look back on them, I can see now how some of them must have been so trying for you. So I have two main things to tell you this Mother's Day -- what I'm sorry for, and what I've learned from you. Here we go.
I am sorry for ...
- Starting off as a "day-night confusion" baby. Much mention has always been made in our family of how I was up all night and asleep all day for the first three months of my life, and only now do I see how exhausting that must have been for you and my dad. Believe me. I am REALLY sorry.
- Sneaking away from you as a baby and licking the bleach cap, and then throwing up all over the place.
- Being one of the reasons it became increasingly difficult for you to continue attending college classes. I have no idea how you handled being a mom and going to school. I'm truly impressed.
- Constantly throwing cookies into the aquarium and killing countless exotic fish. Come to think of it, I'll apologize for that again to my dad on Father's Day, since those fish were his.
- Feeding my baby brother an almost-full bottle of pink bubble-gum flavored Amoxicillin because he liked how it tasted.
- That time when some live crawfish escaped from the sink in the kitchen where they awaited being made into dinner, and I grabbed my brother's 5-year-old self and took off running with him out the front door and down the street for our grandparents' house. While we both had chicken pox. And were barefoot. You came home to an empty house with the front door open, and no kids. The fact that I am still alive after that escapade is a testament to your good graces and ability to forgive.
- The time I was about six years old, and we were visiting our Lutheran grandparents' home church (grandparents who were in some denial about the fact that we were being raised Catholic), and I genuflected at the entrance to the pew. Whoops.
- The scare I gave you when I got hit in the head with a baseball bat at school during gym class, and got a concussion and had to go to the hospital. It wasn't my fault, but I know you were terrified. I'm sorry you got scared. My turn will come, I'm certain.
- All the arguments I gave you over stupid ex-boyfriends in college who really weren't worth the breath we gave to fighting about them. For the record, you were right about all of them. For that matter, thank you for ultimately understanding that I had to figure some things out for myself, and for loving me in spite of my hard-headedness.
From you, I've learned:
- How to hold up my head when other people are trying to make me feel ashamed. I watched you for years handle yourself with grace and dignity in the midst of chaos. I admire you tremendously for the quiet pride you showed in spite of the troubles around you.
- How to love selflessly and completely. Not only did you slather love all over my brothers and myself, you delighted in who we were at every stage along the way, awkward or otherwise. You never once asked or expected anything from us except that we treat you and others with respect and kindness, and that we do our best at whatever it might be that we'd put our minds to.
- How to forgive, again and again. You've shown me that forgiveness isn't something you decide to do once -- you choose it day after day, and that's the true art of it, and the real gift of it to someone else. You're incredible at it.
- How to love a football team unreservedly. :) You and I both know we'll wear those team colors forever.
- What the phrase "living a life of service" really means. You are constantly helping others, in ways large and small. As someone who has benefitted from that help her entire life, and who has never needed it (or YOU) more than now, I thank you from the depths of my grateful heart.
Oh, I lied. There's two more things.
- You really love my husband. You really do, like he's your own. And the fact that I can sit in a room with you and with him and we can all talk without censoring ourselves, and we can all be ourselves just as we are that day or moment, and we can accept and love each other and respect each other completely, and enjoy each other's company wholeheartedly -- it's one of the greatest gifts in my life. I get to just be me around you both -- I never have to be "on" or wonder how you're going to take something he says or vice versa. I have entrusted you both to be yourselves around and with each other, and I can see that you have a deep affection and respect for each other. The peace that brings me keeps me whole.
- I can never thank you enough for the pure joy you take in my son -- your grandson. Seeing you delight in him gives me such pride -- that he can make you smile, that you love him so completely, that I can give you some measure of happiness through a little boy we both love so much. I will never tire of seeing you light up when you look at him, or when he smiles at you.
Thank you, Mom. Thank you for the sacrifices, the hardships, the self-denial, the unreserved love. Thank you for the sleepless nights, the ironed clothes, the cooked meals, the hugs and kisses, the rides to football games, the bedtime stories, the long conversations, the late-night phone calls, the times you took care of the spiders, the dogs you fed, the library fines you paid. Thank you for understanding that I never could stand touching wet food at the bottom of the sink and even when I did the dishes, you had to empty the sink strainer. Thank you for always having chocolate when I need it, or if you don't, for always going to get me some. Thank you for being there in the waiting room when my son was born, despite the fact that I was in labor for 25 hours and you couldn't drive yourself to the hospital, and had to keep getting rides back and forth. Thank you for remembering which one of the three of your children likes only the potatoes in a pot roast, which one only likes the carrots, and which one doesn't like pot roast at all.
It may seem like I'm grown up now, that now that I'm a mother, I don't need you anymore. Nothing could be further from the truth. I will love and need you always, and treasure our time together as I always have.
I love you. Call me.