5/12/13

Mother's Day . . .

The two women in this world that I love the
most and that, by grace, love me the most.  
On Mother's Day in 1997, I sat next to my mother at a restaurant table. Her mother (my favorite grandparent and one of my favorite people to boot) was to directly across from her, my father across from me. I had just come home from my junior year of college two days before. We drove the three hours to see my Grandmother and to have Mother's Day dinner.

It was a "mom and pop" place and I was not impressed with the menu (I'm not a food snob by any stretch but nothing struck my fancy) so I picked the best option I saw - the chicken with mashed potatoes and steamed veggies. When it was delivered my plate was drowning in gravy (that was not mentioned on the menu at all). I mean DROWNING. I hate . . . HATE gravy. I grumbled about it. My mother asked me to not make a scene and I turned and calmly told her she was "The most hateful and annoying person I had ever known."

Her eyes, steely grey and ocean blue at the same time anyway, bulged in her head and and she stared me down and whispered "You will not ruin this meal or this day. Shut up and eat." and went back to the story she was telling her mother. I didn't offer an apology. There was no implication she wanted or needed one. My father stared speechless and disappointed (he yelled at me for a good 45 minutes of the three hour ride home and again several times in the following days). My Grandmother didn't hear (or chose to ignore).

My mother and I had been tepid in our relationship, at best, for years prior to this plate of food. After the incident, we did not speak (I truly don't remember a single word between us) for three and a half months despite me being in her home for that span. The silence was made louder Labor Day weekend with news that her mother had terminal cancer eating her body and would not make it to the holidays. My father called to tell me. My mother declined to let me offer support, condolences, or even share a word. I didn't deserve it from her.

Nearly two months later, on Halloween morning, we buried my Grandmother and my mother and I finally really spoke more than a few passing words. I apologized. She accepted. We vowed to never let crap like that happen again. We haven't.

I tell you this story not because I'm proud (I'm not - I'm mortified and no matter how many years go between that moment and "today" and no matter how many times she tells me she forgives me or not matter how close we become I'll never forgive myself) or because there is any value in you to see what a horrible, small, uncaring person I can be if gravy touches my food. Nope. I tell it to show you what an amazing mother I have.

The strength with which she carries herself, the love she has inside her, and the impossibly wonderful grace that she yields and blesses the man-hand (my father, two brothers and myself) she was dealt and the women in our lives with. Etc. She's truly amazing.

Here's the thing - as my ex-wife, brothers, parents, friends, and anyone that KNOWS me will tell you . . . Despite my willingness to give the proverbial shirt off my back to anyone that I care for and even keeping in context that I am a generally good, loving, caring, and encouraging person, I'm not easy to love. I don't handle it well. I don't like kind gestures, flowery words, inquisitions to my general feelings or dealings, and I don't really go out of my way to ask for help, support, patience, kindness, or love.

Of all the people that have ever tried to love me, my mother (and my daughter - because the love between a dad and his newborn through nearly seven month old is largely about giving to the child anyway (thankfully)) is the only one that has ever really figured "it" out and the only one that I've ever really let love me accordingly. My father is amazing too but he sometimes pushes the issue more than I like (smile).

My mother (to my chagrin) knew that she had to keep a stiff upper lip that moment at dinner. She had to fight back any urge to punch me/set me on fire and she had to let me sweat an entire summer under her roof and even the weeks and months of her losing her own mother. She had more important things to worry about in each of those moments and the entire span of those nearly six months . . . her mother, her husband and other sons that were not emotionally damaged, the children in her classroom, groceries that needed buying, friends that wanted to have fun, and, in a small percentage of remaining energy (as is her way) herself. With her mother gone she probably opened up some bandwidth and she could take me and all my crap on again.

I'm a far better person today than I was in 1997. Shoot (yeah, I just said "shoot") I'm a far better person today I was in 2007. Or 1987. Or 1977. I'm a better person for a million reasons the MOST IMPORTANT of which is that I was fortunate enough to develop in the belly of and then live under the umbrella of a woman who is truly fantastic in every sense of the word.

She is wise, loving, caring, giving, funny, strong, focused, centered, emotionally diverse, well regarded, loved, forgiving, and gracious. She's everything I might be in my best moments but she's those things all the time.

My mom doesn't read my blog (I'm shocked YOU do) but I'm still going to wish here what I did in card, and gift, and what I will in voice later this morning . . . HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY. And I'll pass the same wish on to any of you ladies that have children who are rough on you but you suffer them anyway . . . we don't deserve all the love you give but we sure do appreciate it.