A Portrait of my Mother

Even as an adult, I still think of my mother as, “Mom.”  Yes, I have come to know her more as a person and a friend in my adulthood, but the fact is – she is still the selfless, loving, advice-giving, always-on-my-side person from my childhood.

Before I was born, she worked as a microbiologist at a hospital, looking into a microscope and diagnosing everything from the simplest strep throat to the more terrifying meningitis.  I often think of her at that time in her life, with awe and wonder.  This woman is the portrait of a caregiver – a friendly beautiful face who can get along with anyone and is always willing to comfort someone else when they need it most. And there she was, working in a lab, closed off from the very people she was helping.  The need to help for her, didn’t and doesn’t require any recognition in return.  It was the ultimate selfless career for the ultimate selfless person.  Later, as we were growing up, she was a stay-at-home mom, and then for a time, a teacher.  Could she have done anything more giving than those professions?  It was a natural fit for a kind and beautiful person.

I am in awe of her because she gave and gave and gave some more to my brother and to me, and to my father, and her parents with so much grace and not the least bit resentment.  I wonder if in her heart she was annoyed by the amount of work that went into building up, supporting, and raising other people.   Now, as a mother myself, I often feel like a child – resentful that I can’t always do what I want to do, struggling to find some ounce of freedom from my responsibilities to others.  How did she do it?

In recent years, she has battled health issues that have made it nearly impossible for her to be the “giver” she has always been.  But it has also taken away her hobbies and time with friends.  It has been a major shift in her focus – probably something that needed to happen.  After all her years giving to others, finally, she is forced to give and take care of only herself.

It is a cruel reward, of sorts.  This amazingly selfless woman said to me at Easter this year, “Oh, how I wish I could be helping you with the kids.”  Really?  Even now?  If it were me, I would say, “Oh how I wish I could be travelling, or golfing, or going out to lunches with friends,” but no.  I know that she wants to do those things too, but what she focused on for me was how she wants to help.

If I could tell her one thing for Mother’s Day, it is this:  You help me every day.  You are a helper.  I will never put you on a metaphorical shelf.  I need you.  Our whole family will always need you.  You help me when we chat for 10 minutes on the phone.  You help me and have helped to shape me, to make me better.  You make me strive to be the mother you were to me.  Your patience, your kindness, your love are an example that will last me an entire lifetime.

But for now, my beautiful giver, my Mom, let me try in any way I can to help you – to return your countless favors.  Please call me to vent to me, to ask me for advice, to cry on my shoulder.  Please share your frustrations, your fears, your anger, and your worries.  Share your joys, and your excitements, and your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem.  This sharing, this ability to talk to someone and know that they are listening, that they care and never judge – this is the ultimate gift you have given me.  If I can give it back to you, I will be a happy daughter, mother, friend, and woman.  Happy Mother’s Day to my one and only, “Mom,” my confidante, my friend.


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