half a century
I remember being nine or ten, laying on the top bunk in my bedroom, staring at the ceiling, waiting for sleep to find me. Times were rough then. I was young, confused, dealing with the dramas of fifth grade and boys and wondering if Justin liked me for real or not.
Or should I go out with Jason?
Tough times, people.
It was then, when I was on the brink of sleep, that I’d hear my mom down the hall clicking away at her computer. That’s where you’d find her every night after Carly and I went to bed. Parked in front of the computer, doing her homework after a long day at her regular 9-5. From my bed I could clearly see her, sitting there leaned back in her chair with one foot resting on the desk and her headphones on. Every now and again she’d sing.
My mom has a very pretty voice. Sometimes, and she never knew it, I’d sing along, too, softly from my top bunk.
My voice is nothing like hers.
She was always the last to bed and the first to get up, ready to get us up for school and off to the bus so she could drive to work. She’d come home from work, make dinner, prod us along to get ready for bed and then sit at the computer, doing homework.
See, my mom never got the opportunity to do the college thing right out of high school. Instead, years later, she dedicated all her weekends to furthering her education. To have a better life for herself and for us.
I think to really respect your parents, you have to see them struggle. You have to see them come out of the worst of times and possibly the scariest of times to really respect them. To see them take everything they teach us, and put it to action.
My mom is no exception to this.
She was a widow at 19. She was left with a tiny baby of 11 days old. She was in a bad marriage, a sad marriage and a hard fought but didn’t quite work out marriage. She has joints that pretty much hate her and give her pain every day. She, for the first time in her whole life, lives alone. She has good days, bad days, in between days. She’s a fighter, and a survivor, and a damn fine woman.
And I respect the hell out of her.
I remember the day she graduated from college. I wore a long dress, my sunflower hair tie and Mom’s great uncle Art’s necklace that he had made from some giant stones. I put a lot of thought into that outfit. There, somewhere out there, is a photo of me walking around on the curb singing a song, while my mom and aunt Emily were in the background being photographed. (My mom and Emily graduated at the same time.)
That was the day my other aunt was the crazy woman creeping down the aisle to get the perfect shot of my mom and Emily sitting awaiting graduation.
The day my whole family got together to celebrate an awesome accomplishment.
The day my mom thanked Carly and me for being there for her for the two years she dedicated to college and a full time job.
But really, it’s me thanking her for showing us that it doesn’t matter what age you are, you can always better yourself.
Today (August 14th) is my mom’s fiftieth birthday. A half a century.
No, she’s not perfect. Yes, she drives me crazy. And yes, sometimes I wonder if I was adopted.
But really? I’m my mother’s daughter. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Some days she makes me want to rip my hair out but then there are the days when she laughs so hard she pees herself and I get it on video.
She’s the one that was a single mother, but knew how to ask for help. Who talked to us like adults and and made sure we never went to bed angry. Who was as rational as a mother to two daughters could be. Who gave us space, taught us independence but reminded us we could always go home. Who listened when we spoke and respected our opinions.
I don’t remember my mom as heavy or thin or in between. But I do remember the feeling of my head resting on her belly as we watched tv together. I remember the times she’d buy my favorite candy bar when I was home sick with a cold. When I was having a hard time after Tony died, she got me help. When I wanted to sign up for the Army, she listened to my reasons and with a heavy heart, signed the parental permission form. She’s always known what kind of person I was, and parented to that. She knew that to hold me back would break me. She didn’t make me feel guilty for not choosing to go to college. She supported me when I moved in with my boyfriend of only three months. She was there, holding my hand the day I had my first baby. She watched the kids for me so I could go to therapy for my PPD. She’s an excellent grandmother, a patient and kind one who may not have the grey hair and oversized dresses, but she does have a purse full of things for Mae to rip out and reorganize. She doesn’t judge me or make me feel small. She always listens when I ask.
I honestly thought for months about what to give her for her birthday. And with only 2 hours left until the big day, I still have no idea. What do you give to the woman who gave you life? There’s really no answer to that.
So what I’ll give you mom, is this. A reminder of all the good you’ve done in your life. Because focusing on the bad is a waste of time and frankly, you’re so much more good than bad. I’m sorry there are times that I seem like I’m judging, but really, it’s me, being me. You’re an incredible woman, though you don’t always see it, I do. You make me so proud and happy and sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky to have a mom like you.
Thank you, mom. Thank you for being the most amazing mom I have ever known and keeping life interesting.
Happy fiftieth birthday. I love you.