Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lessons My Mother Taught Me

My mom is 87 years old and in generally good health, though of course she is showing the effects of her age. I know that we have reached the point where every day with her is, essentially, a bonus. I have only recently come to realize how little I actually appreciated her over the years.

Mom and I aren't very much alike. When I was growing up, unlike a lot of little girls, I never wanted to be my mom. I wanted to be my dad. He was outgoing and charming and witty and people loved to have him around. He was a raconteur with a wicked wit. He went off to work or out for an evening of fun and came home with exciting stories to tell. Mom, well, she kept the home fires burning, made sure he and we kids had a nice place to come home to, and generally kept the peace. She managed whatever money Dad brought home and found a way to make it cover everything we needed. She cooked us wonderful meals and baked and sewed and cleaned and nurtured. To me, her life looked like one of boredom, subservience and drudgery. I wanted no part of it.

Of course, what I didn't realize then, didn't even realize as a young woman, was that my mom led the life she chose. She has always been a little shy and didn't want to be out mixing with large groups of people or being the center of attention. She loved my dad with a depth I can barely fathom: she literally grieved herself nearly to death in the first year after he died. She loved her four children deeply and had the wisdom to accept each of us us as just who we are. When my brother Don left home and went rambling around the country as a young man, she worried about him, but she didn't fault him. She understood, perhaps better than anyone, that this was just what he needed to do. When each of my siblings went through a rough patch with Dad as they transitioned into adulthood (a transition Dad never handled well) she willingly played peacemaker because loved them all and could understand both sides of the battle.

When I was a teenager and young adult, she was already alone, but she selflessly made it easy for me to go off and pursue my own dreams because she knew me well enought to know that was the road to happiness for me. Different though we are, I never doubted how very much she loved me and how proud she was of me. I never felt like she thought I should be anything other than who I am.

Now that I'm in my 50's, I am finally at a point in my life where I've chased external prizes long enough. Though I still do rewarding work and still love to be social, there is no higher priority in my life right now than finishing Sam's upbringing so he can successfully achieve his dreams and find his right path to adulthood; providing a safe and loving launching point for Warren; and spending some quality decades with my best friend and wonderful life partner, Bob. That means that I am FINALLY at the point where I notice what a wonderful role model Mom is and has always been. It might not have been a lesson I was ready to learn at the time, but in my formative years she taught me everything I would ever need to know about loving unconditionally, giving loved ones the freedom to grow and thrive, and making sure that the people we love know how much we love them. What a gift!

5 comments:

Shannon said...

That is very thoughtful. We totally don't appreciate our moms when we're you. It's nice to reach a mellowing season and reflect on it all.

Kenneth Urban said...

Nice. I think you've learned in the noblest way:

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is the noblest; second, by imitation, which is the easiest; third, by experience, which is the bitterest." -Confucius

Susan said...

@Shannon, hope you really meant when we're "young." Awfully strong indictment on me if not! ;)

Susan said...

@Ken, thanks. Clearly, I didn't have the good sense to learn by imitation -- never have been one to take the easy route!

Diana Coon said...

Perhaps the best thing a mother can do is to allow a child to be as different from themselves as is humanly possible. I applaud a mother who is not determined to make you over in her image....