Everywhere you look right now, the celebration of motherhood is in full swing . According to advertisements, Mother’s Day, coming up on Sunday, is full of flowers, teacups, pink notions, and all things fluffy and blingy. But somehow, in my 18 years as a mom, this kind of perspective does NOT reflect my experience. Motherhood is ANYTHING but sugar and spice and everything nice. So for the next few days, I will be sharing my musings on motherhood. Today I start at the source, my own mom, and how she interacted with HER mom, and the lessons she taught me about loving those who are yours.
My mom was one of two sisters raised by avant garde parents. My grandpa worked his way up from mail room boy to VP of Western Operations for Wells Fargo Bank. Paying his way through San Jose State, and then Cal, he served in the Navy in WWII before becoming a father. My grandmother, the daughter of the Pullman shop manager in Richmond, California, was any early feminist, attending Cal Berkeley as a woman in the early 1930’s. Socialite life and charity organizing was her forte. Motherhood was not. She volunteered, ballroom danced, attended soirees, and basically did everything but be a mother. So my mom had only vague notions of what a nurtured childhood was really all about, often raised by nanny’s, college students attending CAL who wanted to earn extra money. However, in spite of that ignorance, my mom made a purposeful decision to not only learn how to mother lovingly, but to be a Godly parent as well. And, rather than write her own mom off in later years with a “you did you, I’m gonna do me” mentality, she grappled with the pain and loss from her childhood, and funneled it instead into a grace-laden, nurture-filled caregiving role for not only her mom, but her dad, and her two grandmas.
I witnessed my mom honoring her parents and family with a dedication and love that is rarely seen in our culture. I had two great-grandmas that lived into their nineties. My grandma lived to be 96. My grandpa lived to be a month short of 100. My grandparents estate was significant and highly complex. Both my grandparents required daily care for several years before they died. My mom modeled for me the daily, daily, daily, often times “twice” daily, sacrifice of honoring my grand-“people’s”, and making sure that they were treated with the utmost in respect and given the highest quality of life possible for as long as they lived.
My mom promised both of her parents that she would be with them the moments leading up to, and when, they actually died. And she kept that promise, in the wee hours of the early morning, both times. My mom taught me that the older a person gets, the MORE they have to offer to those following behind, not less, and that the more illogical and irrational an elder can get, the MORE patient and grace-filled you become, not less. She taught me that gray hair and wrinkles and twisted bodies and absent minds are the gifts given to those of us who ARE in our “prime” because they are wise reminders that our days are fleeting, our moments sacred, and the people we love are valuable because of their heart and soul, not because of any attribute seen by the naked eye. Thanks mom. In a culture where the elderly are often seen as disposable burdens, you’ve modeled for me the priceless gifts they are to our lives.