I intended to title this “the care and feeding of a tough mother”…
Anyway, ever since I was young, I considered my mom kind of a superhero. Which is funny since, in school, whenever asked to name our heroes, I could never come up with even one name. I had no time for “heroes” (still don’t, really). I mean, aren’t heroes just regular people, same as you and me?
But, back to my Mom: Why the “superhero” status? I mean, she’s never gone to the moon, or saved Timmy from a well, or made 75 touchdowns in one season. And honestly, as far as I can tell, she’s never done anything that much different than what other kids’ moms did. No overt or stupendous acts of valor, no stopping trains simply by force of will. Nope, none of the stereotypical qualities seemed to apply to her at all. And yet, she’s always been a titan in my eyes: Tall, sturdy and seemingly unflappable. I believed - and kind of still do – that she would have wrestled grizzly bears if need be to protect us. I suppose the “larger-than-life” quality stems from receiving a love that qualifies as a force of nature. That truly Universal, nurturing love: The actual source of ALL love.
I find her inner strength truly awe-inspiring. She’s always been patient beyond measure, but never indifferent – although many have thought her distant, or even snooty. Fun, but not nutty. Supportive, but not in that controlling, helicopter kind of way. During our childhood, she laid down the ground rules and only really dropped the hammer when we dropped the ball. And boy, when she let loose, she threw down hard! Not with overt punishments generally – but with a subtle quality that made us recognize the rotten little shits we could be. And never to induce guilt: Just to remind us when we were ridiculously neglectful of our personal responsibilities.
Since my dad died we’ve been trying to coax, cajole, and guilt, (I know, right?) my mom into moving to San Diego. Early on, her argument was always that her part time job gave her something to do, and that she had her very own house and didn’t feel the need to leave it. Did I mention her strong nature?
Last October I had hoped to convince her with, what I thought, was going to be my very best argument for a move south. Unfortunately, my scheme was shot to hell by the announcement of my brother’s diagnosis. As devastating as the news was, my mother rose to the occasion and promptly became my brother’s main caregiver – for the second time in 30 years, as this sadly, wasn’t their first cancer-go-round together!
My brother told me time and again that he didn’t think he would have been able to manage without her help, and how tremendously grateful he was for her. And, for her part, she thought nothing of it. It’s what she’s always done; supported her children without a second thought for herself. Even at the expense of her personal health and wellbeing.
Spending the past two weeks attending to her needs has been an amazing experience. Have I missed my husband, son, and all that I do in Southern California? Of course! But, as weird as it sounds, the first time she actually asked me for something, I felt so honored: Fortunate that she finally tuned into her own needs and graciously (of course) received what she needed from someone other than herself.
After a bedside chat about my brother the other night, I saw the most beautiful serenity projecting out of my mom’s exhausted, abused body. It was a loveliness only a mother exudes when swept up in the emotion of loving her treasured child. I’ve seen that very look out of the corner of my eye when she didn’t think I knew she was looking my way. That night I realized that, that powerful, unyielding source of all love resides in the very core of her being.
So wow – how do you truly repay someone for a lifetime of devotion and support? For the woman who pretty much gave up her own soul for the care and feeding of my brother and me, (in addition to doting on her precious grandsons.) Someone who has sustained so much loss and pain in the past few years, yet continues to move forward: To her “whole new life,” as she put it the other day.
Any feedback is seriously appreciated!
As I kissed her goodnight after our interchange, I heard myself say, “You are one f**king strong woman.” She tilted her head slightly and gave me a sly half-grin and said, “Yep – I guess I am one strong f**king woman.”
As she continues to heal and sets forth on her “whole new life” I believe her strength will sustain her - and I think she’ll be alright.
This pretty much sums it up! Thanks for posting this the other day, cousin K!