Naturally a parent has to have a great deal of patience and stamina to raise a family of four boys, but it also helps if you have some exceptional talents. My mother had many such remarkable abilities.
For example, if you’ve ever marveled at the ability of a bird to hunt for earth worms by listening to them move underground you would be suitably impressed by my mother’s ability to hear the lid of the ceramic, black cat cookie jar move while she was working on something three rooms away from the kitchen.
The greatest detective in the world could never match my mother’s ability to disassemble and then reconstruct what really must have happened based on the sketchy detail and pure fabrication that I worked so hard to generate.
Even with today’s most sophisticated medical equipment there isn’t a doctor or nurse who could match my mother’s capacity to instantly distinguish legitimate illness from a scheme to get a day out of school.
At the time I didn’t know what I was up against when I trotted out some of my best material, such as the original and all purpose, “I didn’t see myself do it.” Or the infamous assertion, “the teacher doesn’t care about spelling,” along with the most preposterous entry, “the teacher always mixes me up with this other kid, so I sometimes end up with his bad grades.” How in the world I thought my mother would buy that one I can’t explain, but that didn’t stop me from putting it in play on more than one report card day.
My mother could beautifully sew just about anything, at first out of necessity as a way to save the family some money, and then to keep up with my career as an elementary school prizefighter. The hood of a jacket provides the opponent with a tremendous advantage in a playground brawl, and that is why it was so frequently ripped off. And if you’re waiting in line for your mother to pick you up after school there’s still plenty of time to go a few rounds in the dirt with an unsuspecting classmate, maybe ruin a perfectly good pair of pants before calling it a day.
It’s easy to understand how a parent could eventually develop an overly pessimistic outlook on life.
Pessimism, for anyone who is looking for a good definition, is planting 100 bulbs and then immediately conceding that the chipmunks will eat half of them, most of the others will probably rot, and it will be a miracle if one or two actually blooms in such a finicky climate.
But my mother plants them anyway because she is the definition of determination and perseverance. It takes a lot of guts to go back to college after more than twenty years, to retool to become a teacher, and it takes an exceptional level of determination and perseverance to graduate early with highest honors. Thank you for the gifts of determination and perseverance. They have served me well when I have needed them most, when giving up or giving in was not an option. I want you to know that I honor you, Mom, as I pass these gifts along to my own children.
Thank you, as well, for the gift of self-sufficiency.
Speaking of planting bulbs, thank you for your love of gardening and your ability to create beauty in complete harmony with your natural surroundings. Thank you for the serenity that comes from the garden. It enhances the quality of life immeasurably.
Thank you for putting your family first by putting aside your career for twenty years to raise a family. And now, thank you for always making everyone feel welcome in your home, and at all times putting aside any of your current concerns to care first about what concerns others. Thank you for the gift of listening, caring and understanding. I have built a career with those tools. Nevertheless, I honor you by keeping my family first. Nothing is more important.
Later in life you launched a professional painting career, too late you used to say, but not according to the American Watercolor Society where you became a signature member at age seventy-six. Thank you for your strength of spirit and your resolve.
Sometimes I sit in my family room and marvel at the display of talent on the walls, but my eye always goes back to the watercolor miniature of two young boys standing on the beach, my two boys. You see them from the back, in their colorful t-shirts and shorts; but with just a few strokes of the brush you completely captured their identity along with their relationship. Thank you for your sensitivity, your ability to feel what you see and your ability to see the intriguing that is embedded within the ordinary. Thank you for my appreciation of art. Every day is richer.
Thank you for your courage, your resilience, your fortitude and your fight. None of us will ever forget how much you needed all that and more just a few years ago.
Maybe you can tell that all these many years I really have been listening, and watching, and practicing. It may have taken a while, but let’s see I’ve finally got it right.
Do your best, take pride in your work, (even if spelling doesn’t count); your work is a reflection of who you are.
And while we’re on the subject of work, your first work is your family. It is the most important contribution you can make to the world. It isn’t always an easy ride but without the work there is no family.
Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get going again. Perseverance, determination, resilience, and strength-of-spirit keep you in the race long after your talents and good fortune have run their course.
Create beauty all along the path you take and appreciate all forms of art; your journey will always be richer.
Be ready to be courageous. When the time comes you probably won’t have enough time to think about it, but you may forever regret the times that you let yourself be diminished by your fears.
Thank you Mom