Today is my Mom’s birthday and I cannot articulate how much I appreciate having a relationship with her, not just because of her support of my living with MBC, but also as a friend and as a role model for living as a woman and mom. She looks and presents much much younger than her chronological age and has a tattoo (among others) reminding her that she is the Mother of Dragons. My mother has raised and homeschooled all six (6) of us, while serving as a pastor’s wife, and working part time as a physical therapist. In the last seven (7) years of raising two (2) children, I can honestly say that I have no idea how she did it and I’ve been more and more in awe of her accomplishments as a woman and as a human being as I’ve gotten older. By the age when I had my second child, she had birthed, breastfed and homeschooled all six (6) of us — WOW!!
To know my mother is to love her. She is the most nurturing person I know and selflessly gives of herself every single day. Watching her navigate being a mother to adult children has taught me so much about setting aside one’s own needs to support every single one of her children in the best way she can. Watching her love on my boys and her other grandchildren has truly been amazing. Watching her be the best mother-in-law I’ve ever seen to all of my in-laws has driven home to me how extremely lucky each and every one of my in-laws are to have her in their lives.
My mom is skilled at listening without judgment or instructions and only gently offers her opinions when pressed. She is adept at loving each person important to her, just as they are. She is rarely roused to anger or stating strong feelings and when she does, it’s best to listen. As we’ve all learned, she’s usually right.
Thinking about my mother today, I am also reminded of what my mother’s parents have brought into her life and my life. My maternal grandmother is my last living grandparent; she lives up in Ohio, where I’m from originally, and after her recent hospitalization and positive COVID testing, she is now under hospice care. My grandmother is in her 90s and she’s had a full life; she is the proud grandmother of nine (9) and great-grandmother of thirteen (13) with one (1) more on the way. Seeing my mother care for her mother, seeking to speak with her regularly, especially in the lockdowns of COVID, and now her being a part of my grandmother’s end of life arrangements has brought home to me and reminded me about the strengths we have gained from my mother’s family.
My maternal grandparents were often motivated by duty, by fairness, by hard work, by following through and meaning what you say. They were consistent, loyal, and could always be counted on. Both of my grandparents were immersed in the stereotypical patriarchy of the WASPs and raised my mother in that tradition. And yet, my grandmother had several semesters of college under her belt and she had more independence than many of the women in her generation. The three children in my mom’s generation are a pharmacist, a physical therapist, and a nurse, all traditionally helping professions and far different from my engineering grandfather, showing how they supported each of their children to pursue their own paths.
One of the things I remember quite vividly about my grandparents is their volunteer work. The Red Cross was a special interest of theirs and they were always the first to sign up through their church to help with leading Sunday school or supporting the people in the community who didn’t have the same resources. And yet, their family was the most important. Looking back on every single important milestone in my life, my grandparents were there. It wasn’t always easy or convenient, but they showed up, again and again, bearing witness to the accomplishments and milestones of their children and grandchildren.
My maternal grandfather never met my boys. He died when I was a young professional and before I met my husband. I know that his engineer’s brain would have loved talking math with my math obsessed 2nd grader and I can just imagine his face peering out from under his bushy eyebrows listening in barely contained astonishment to my younger kindergartner’s agile stories and enthusiasm. My grandfather wasn’t someone who minced his words and he wasn’t the easiest to get to know; at the same time, I always knew I could count on his support and I always knew that he would be proud of achievements obtained through hard work and focus. He was less comfortable with emotions or anything else that didn’t add up neatly, as many engineers find themselves.
My grandparents influenced my mom and her siblings in so many ways. They influenced my generation in the family in so many ways as well. As we have connected with my family in Ohio to talk to my grandmother across a variety of electronic platforms in the last few weeks, we have marveled at the many advantages we’ve had with such a matriarch in our family. She was ahead of her “time” in so many ways and yet she had few role models to show her what else was possible — without her generation paving the way for my mom, who then paved the way for me, women wouldn’t have the same advantages or opportunities as we celebrate the first woman elected to Vice President.
As I thought about what to say to my grandmother, for perhaps one of the last times last week, the one main concept I shared with her was how much I appreciated all the time she took to write to me. When I went through my “stashes” in our house in Orlando in preparation for our move to Miami in 2017, I found hundreds of cards and letters from her over the years. During high school, college, law school, and beyond, we exchanged letters and cards and had our own short hand at times. My grandmother and I connected in a different way through writing than we ever could verbally and I appreciate her commitment to enter into relationship with me in a way that was comfortable for us both. Every single card and letter just reinforced how she put her energy into her family, her way of showing her love.
At the end of the day, the one thing I can say for sure about my relationships with my maternal grandparents and my mom is that they have each spoken and demonstrated love and I know, from each of them, in their own different ways, that I am loved. And isn’t that the one thing we need from those around us? To know that we are important to the people around us?
Thank you, Mom, for always making me feel important to you, for showing me how to be a women and a mom, and for being who you are, every day. I love you and wish you the happiest of happy birthdays!!