Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

I am an extremely fortunate man to have a family that gets along and can function together when we need to. We enjoy seeing each other at gatherings, and while we have our frictions and scars we also understand the importance of family. A big part of why we get along as well as we do is because of my mother's influence.

As some of you are aware, my mother suffered a subdural hematoma last June. After a short period where we were so certain she was going to die that she was under hospice care, she came back with a determination that I have found impressive. Unfortunately at 88, comebacks are difficult to pull off, and she's slipped back quite a bit. Her short term memory is very poor, although she remembers people she knows well. A year ago she and her partner won a charity Bridge league in an environment with some very good players, and now she struggles to remember what the bid was. If the rest of this post sounds like I'm speaking of her in the past tense, it's because in some senses she *has* gone on.

As the fourth of four kids, and fifteen years after my closest sibling at that, I perhaps had the best of all worlds. When I was born, I'm told that my mother looked at my father and told him that she was raising me her way this time out. "Her way" meant that I was encouraged in every endeavor I tried, some of which I needed a bit of a push to do, but mostly in the sense that I grew up thinking that anything was possible and there was nothing I couldn't do if I wanted to do it. The long term result is that I *still* think I can do anything I set out to do. OK, not basketball. Or golf. But anything else. That attitude allows me to keep an open mind about the world in general, something that seems to be sorely lacking in American culture in the early 21st century.

When I expressed interest in learning to play the organ after she got a small home console and took a few lessons, her support that turned into a lifetime of music performance for me that has paid so many dividends I cannot list them all. The primary one is almost certainly the confidence to play the fool when called for. Actually, it would be more correct to say that I am not afraid to play the fool or appear foolish, and the irony is that quite often by removing that fear we do not in fact appear foolish after all. That skill has served me well in many capacities, not the least of which is how I interact with my 2 year old granddaughter.

When I discovered wargames at 10 years of age, she encouraged the hobby, helping me to buy games and start what has become a bit of an obsession over the years, but one that has brought great joy and great friendships to my life. She may never have understood them in the slightest sense, but I am fairly sure that she would look at a game set up in my room and be proud that she had a son who could figure these things out and was learning history, all on his own initiative. What I'm not sure she considered was how much of her encouragement and love led to that point.

At this point in my life, I find myself using her example in my relationship with my son-in-law (and my daughter, were she willing) to help him become as good a parent to my granddaughter as my mother was to me. My mother is not and never has been perfect, but she was perfect for me, and I consider myself about as lucky as it is possible to be in that regard.

As my mother fades, I am starting to think that this may be the last Mother's Day I celebrate with her still in my life. The truth is, of course, that when she is gone she is not actually gone. Her DNA continues in four children, eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. The example she provided is equally strong. Certainly her memory will last for a while, and I am thankful that my granddaughter has had the chance to spend time with her, even if eventually she will be more of an impression than a clear memory. She will live on in me and my siblings, in our children, and in their children.

Mom, thank you for everything you have done for me, all the sacrifices you have made, all the hard choices, the example and the ethical foundation. I am a much better person for being your son. I love you. Happy Mother's Day.

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