It goes without saying that a person cannot choose his mother. Without your mom being who she is, you would not exist; yet, I hear of people wishing they could have been born to different parents. It’s a silly prospect, but when I consider some of the dreadful conditions so many grow up with, these sorts of wishes are understandable.
My mom happens to be a teacher. Certainly, all moms are teachers by necessity, but my mom is also one professionally. It takes a special sort of person with a special kind of heart to raise four children, endure the endless challenges that come with parenting, then choose to–for woefully inadequate pay–go teach and mentor and love the children of other mothers. It takes an incredibly sacrificial person to do that sort of thing. That’s my mom. She’s like a superhero, endowed with the power of grace for others, especially children.
As children, we learn so many of the essentials from our mothers–from speaking to walking to wiping our own butts–none of this is glamorous, but thank God somebody thought we were lovable enough to teach, despite our utter helplessness. Like any kid, I learned much from my mom; if I could place a finger on the most profound thing I’ve learned from her, it would be this: Perseverance.
Life is not easy when you have two of the hardest jobs in the world–mother and school teacher–but it’s even more difficult when you’re married to a floundering alcoholic. I never understood why she put up with it until I had kids of my own, and then it became obvious–she did it for us. She pressed on for her children. For years and years, she pressed on. I suppose I’ll never know quite how difficult it was for her, how many times she thought of quitting, only to relent at the thought of her kids.
I was a grown man when the snarling demon of alcoholism finished working its fangs into my dad’s abused liver, and he began to quickly waste away into a shriveled and yellowed shell of a human. I drove him to the doctor in my green Chevy pickup (I’d picked it out because Dad always liked Chevys), and the doctor redirected us straight to the hospital, where we both were blindsided by the reality that all this life–all this stuff we do–the jobs we work and the dreams we dream, the food we eat and the liquor we drink, the hours we sleep and the hours we walk about as if we were sleeping–all of this stuff is real. The choices are real, and if your choices suck, or if you’ve sleepwalked through life enough to allow a demon-called-alcoholism to make your choices for you, than you might end up screwed jack–on the receiving end of a respirator, with a bunch of doctors trying to figure out what to do about your distended belly and your liver, swelled up like an over-inflated football.
For several days, I didn’t live. I was still around–going to college, going to work, coming home, sleeping. But I was not alive. I felt cold as death. One day, I told my mom that I didn’t want to do it anymore–the college, the work, and all the crap that I found myself walking robotically through. I didn’t come out and say I wanted to die, but that is what I wanted.
I wonder how many hugs a mom is capable of giving in her life. How many thousands of hugs has my mom given me over the years? A mother’s hug is a powerful thing; I suppose my mom’s given me enough hugs to power a large city for decades. She hugged me that day–the day I realized I wanted to die–and I started to feel better. I still think about that day a lot.
I mentioned that we don’t get to choose our mothers. Even if we could–even if I could peruse the annuls of all the moms in all the lands of this world who’ve ever existed–I know I would never choose someone different.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.