When we are little, we’re often asked to write about our role models or who we would most want to be like when we grow up. My answer was always simple, and it was always the same. Even when I started my first corporate job, I was asked to answer this question and still, at 22 years old, the answer was easy, my Mom.
My Mom is one of the most beautiful people I know. She loves to laugh, she’s intelligent and outgoing, she talks to everyone and she dances anywhere, even in a movie theater when she feels the music. She leaps up in celebration when she’s excited, she touches people when she talks to them and she’s been stunning her entire life. When I was little, I would watch her every move. How she entered a room with such confidence and how her smile could change the entire feeling of a situation. People wanted to be near her, they wanted some of what she had to rub off on them and I wanted it to rub off on me.
When my parents were still married my Dad went off to work every day and my Mom took care of the house along with me and my brother. She had so much to offer the world and she assumed the role of military spouse and homemaker. She took care of everything from cleaning to cooking to paying the bills. She also volunteered and hosted gatherings and fundraisers because she had skills and she was wise enough to use them, I think this was my Mom’s side hustle. She may not have understood it then, but she was preparing herself for the professional world that she did not expect she’d have to step into in the coming years. It would become survival versus extracurricular.
As a kid I remember smelling cookies and licking the beaters when she would call us in from outside playing in the yard to have a treat. I remember haircuts and the little piece of candy I would get for sitting still. I remember pretty dresses on Sunday and picnics in the park. My Mom and Dad were great experience providers. They had a beautiful balance of down time and adventure. My Mom was a home body and my Dad enjoyed activity so, many times, on the weekends we would be with my Dad playing flag football with the neighborhood kids or hiking and my Mom would be at home getting some alone time, I totally get that now.
Once my Dad had moved out and my Mom was a working single Mom, I remember laying in her bed in the evenings when she was getting out of her work cloths. I would talk non-stop about anything and everything going on in my life and she would listen to my every word. This was my time, with no one else to compete for her attention. I remember when she would work late, I would stare out our dining room window with the perfect view of the street leading up to our cul-de-sac. I knew what her head lights looked like and I would watch the cars drive slowly up the road hoping it would be her. I would hold my breath and when I realized it wasn’t, I could feel the release of disappointment in my chest. It felt like I’d sit in that window for hours waiting for the most important person in the world to come back to me.
When I moved to Maryland in 1999, I was 25 years old and the hardest part about that decision was leaving my Mom behind in Colorado. She was remarried to her now husband Frank so I knew she wouldn’t be alone. But I needed her, she was my rock, my source for forgiveness, understanding and a deep unwavering love. I wasn’t sure how I would survive not being able to see her whenever I wanted. The day I was leaving we sat in the airport together holding hands. Both of us trying to be strong and both of us breaking wide open from the separation we were anticipating. She waved to me as I walked on to the plane with tears in her eyes. We talked about this move as something temporary and I was certain I’d move back within a year, that would be the last day we ever lived in the same State. I think she waited for my headlights for years to come.
Our relationship has been one of highs and lows but mostly something right in between, like a warm cozy blanket that you snuggle up to when you want to feel safe. She has been “my person” and has loved me even when I didn’t love myself. She taught me how to look into my own heart and trust my voice. She taught me how to feel all of the feelings, the good and the terrible. She let me sit with my ache and gave me space to hurt and recover. My Mom played acoustic guitar, a gift my brother would carry on. She loved to sing, and she loved the way music could provide space to feel. She would pick that guitar up and sing to me when we were celebrating and gathering with others but mostly, I remember her singing to me when I was hurting. Her voice was like medicine, every note was healing. It was unbelievably comforting.
I now find myself in a career that very much followed in my mother’s footsteps. She was a salesperson, leader of people, a facilitator and just before she retired, an executive coach. I feel grateful to have found a company that allowed me to lean into these skills too, it’s actually quite unbelievable. She tells me regularly how proud she is of what I’ve accomplished but my professional achievements have never been at the top of her pride list. She lights up, and usually tears up, when she talks about my kids and what a great job she thinks Greg and I are doing as parents. This is everything to me because above all I want to be a great Mom. I don’t think I’m looking for her approval anymore but it’s reassuring when she tells me because I often question if I’m doing enough.
I had a blessed childhood and I’m telling you some of the best parts today because I want to remember it that way. I want to celebrate the woman that has loved and supported me my entire life. She wasn’t perfect and I wasn’t very tolerant of those imperfections for many years. I still find myself wanting something I will never have from time to time, but I know what I got was pretty amazing and I’m grateful above all else. I hope that I’ve taken all the good things with me as I navigate this crooked and winding road of motherhood.
It’s been 21 years since I lived near my Mom and so much has changed. I’m not her person anymore, maybe I never was. When you’re the daughter it seems clear that your Mom is the rock but now that I’m the Mom I understand it might be a little different on this side of that relationship. Her person is Frank, her husband, and he is madly and deeply in love with her. He puts her first and I am grateful beyond measure that they found one another. He has assumed the management of their life now and handles everything. She gets to focus on being loved and taking one day at a time. The tides have turned and my once all doing, all knowing Mom is learning how to “be” in a way most of us would fear. She still laughs, she still cries, and she still wraps me in her arms and holds me like nothing has changed. I still feel completely loved.
This is really hard to write because she is sick, and I do miss my Mom. I miss her phone calls and cards, I miss our making plans and I mostly miss our 2 or 3 hour phone conversations talking about anything and everything like when I use to lay on her bed all those years ago. She has been sick for a while, I’m not certain how long but I’d guess she’s been losing her memory and cognitive ability for more than 10 years. I don’t think I noticed it until about 5 years ago and I didn’t really accept it until just over a year ago. This has been a journey filled with anger, loss, grief, but also laughter and joy. You see, even though my Mom is struggling right in front of me she is still shining and laughing and enjoying her life. I still love to talk to her and see her smile. She knows me, she knows all of us and I’m grateful for that. She’s also supported by a loving caretaker and he is one of the greatest blessings any daughter could ask for.
So here on Mother’s Day in 2020 I am reminded of how wonderful my Mom is and how much she shaped the woman and mother I am today. I know I’m lucky, I know my life was blessed. She is, in my eyes, the most wonderful Mom a girl could ask for, and to me she is still everything.