I don’t know how to talk about her. I never have. My love for her grows up from such a deep place within me that words have always seemed elusive. Few others matter as much as her. Still, the words to describe how I feel about her, seem to slip away before I can pin them down. Perhaps others might feel this as well? There’s just something about mothers that make them so significant that they evade definition by the sheer magnitude of their importance.
I used to write about my Dad all the time. Especially when he was alive. Birthdays, Father’s Day and any other holiday that might require a gift of words. It was easy to gift him this. I could write pages about him. The words flowed easily and often. He was larger than life. And he loved the words. Loved to hear how he was seen. How he was loved.
My mother asked me once, why I didn’t often write things about her? She misunderstood it, I think, to mean that she meant less. But the opposite was true. She meant so much more, that my heart wouldn’t allow me the words to describe it. She isn’t larger than life, she is life.
But she’s turning 86 this week. And I know I can’t avoid it forever. I don’t want the first words I write about her to be a eulogy. I want her to KNOW. So here is what feels like a feeble attempt at describing what she means to me.
I think, perhaps I can explain some of it through who I have become by being loved by her. If you are my husband, or child and you are sick. I am there for you. I will climb mountains, sacrifice both my own health and my sleep, pray deeply and spare no expense…to do all within my power to restore you to health. I will not think twice about this. I consider it my greatest honor and my duty to be able to love you. For when you are hurt I am hurt. This I learned watching my mother.
Thinking back to the times when I was sick during my childhood, I can still hear my father in the middle of the night, waking up my mother….”Beverly, she’s calling you….” I never called for him. Always her. She knew how to soothe. How to comfort. Her hands were always cool and refreshing to a fevered brow. It seemed she could make me better just by willing it to be so.
When I grew and left home, it took me years of dealing with late night illnesses, before I stopped longing for her presence when I was sick. It was one of the hardest things to give up when I moved away.
And my mother KNOWS things. She always has. Still to this day even. “Are you alright?” she’ll ask. I have revealed nothing, yet she knows. I love that. It’s an instinct she has. Cultivated over years of having to read between the lines with her children. And no matter her age, this instinct is as sharp as ever.
My mother is a part of everything I have become. When I am like my dad, I am noticed. But when I am like my mother, I am loved. People just love her. She’s the person you bump into in the grocery store and end up telling your life story to. You don’t know why you did it, she didn’t ask, but something about her openness compels you. She is a safe place to reveal yourself. This is part of what always made her a great secret keeper! I could tell her anything.
The funny thing about my mother is that she doesn’t even grasp how much she is loved. She struggles with feelings of unworthiness. Her life long focus has always been so much on others that her world is off kilter when the emphasis is on her. She often thinks people are catering to her out of the goodness of their hearts. When the truth is they are responding to her in love and with love – a love that is just for her.
I can’t change this about her, but I have tried. I’ve tried to impress upon her the significance she plays in her children’s lives…but she can’t hold on to it. She struggles to understand her own great worthiness. Recently she said to me, “Won’t you be so glad when I’m gone? You’ll have some free time!” These words hurt, but she doesn’t mean them to. She hates to impose. Hates to take. And she so values me and my time that taking up some of it feels like a tremendous burden to her.
Will I be happier when she’s gone? Not a chance. There is not one moment of time that I have spent with her that I would exchange for something else. And I know, no matter how many more moments I have, there will never be enough time with her. I will always want more.
I grew up being told by her (repeatedly!!), “You should never hate anyone.” I was the dramatic child who hated everyone and everything when frustrated. Her words drove me crazy. Didn’t she understand, some things deserved to be hated? But I regularly hear her saying that in my head these days and the older, less drama driven version of myself, recognizes the beauty in what she tried to impress upon me. She was right. Little did I know, she was shaping how I see others.
But she has also shaped how I see myself. I showed her something I wrote the other day. She read it, smiled and responded with , “You are really something!!” And when she says it, I believe it. I feel like something. Who else on this planet thinks of me and thinks, “She is really something!!” in the way my mother does? All blinders to my faults, seeing only the good…..when she says it, you know it’s only a part of who you are but she sees the best part. And it makes you want to be even better.
My mother has always been a kind, gentle soul. A fierce protector of those she loves. There have been moments though, where she has had to rise to tough challenges. Like the time when I was hit by a car at 16. My leg was shattered. One bone in a million little pieces and the other coming right out of my leg. My foot torn up so much that the bones could be seen. My mother entered the emergency room and the doctor put her to work. I don’t know where the rest of the staff were that day, but while I lie awake on a table, the doctor and my mother proceed to clean my leg. It was a slow, painstaking process. I know I was in agonizing pain but I don’t remember the pain. What I remember from that moment was my mother. She was a rock! She assisted the surgeon, did everything he asked and did it well. How on earth, did she do it? I still don’t know. But the image of the strength she portrayed that day has stayed with me ever since.
Yes, she’s a kind, gentle soul who did whatever she needed to do for those she loved. I’ve been the beneficiary of that love and devotion my entire life. So when I’m spending time with her, I’m not thinking about where I might rather be or what else I could be doing. Instead, I’m thinking….I love this woman. Every moment with her is a gift. And it’s a gift I can never get enough of
Happy Birthday Mom. I love you.