My parents and their 18 descendants (plus three in-laws)
(Copyright © 2015 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)
One Mother’s Day a couple of decades ago, someone told me she felt left out — because she had wanted to be a mother but it had simply never happened for her. I did not yet have children of my own when I heard this, nor was I straining at the bit to father any at the moment, but I still felt immensely sad for her. Not only because she’d been denied one of the few goals in her life, but because she allowed her disappointment to turn to bitterness, and because she seemed to make a point of telling other people about this on Mother’s Day, the lone day each year set aside to salute those women who did happen to have children.
Today, I don’t remember what I said in response, or whether I responded at all. But I know what I was thinking:
This day isn’t about her.
Just like someone else’s birthday party isn’t the time to complain that no one celebrated your last birthday, and just like someone else’s graduation day isn’t the time to bemoan your own lack of finishing school, this day is set aside to honor those women who either did raise or are raising children. Some of them planned all along to be mothers, while others were surprised into it. For some, it was more difficult than for others. But all of them played (and play) a vital role in the furtherance of humanity — the most vital role.
About my own mother, I have written and said plenty (including my 2001 poem Till The Day I Die), yet more probably needs to be said.
There were a billion other mothers on the planet in 1972, but only one of them gave birth to me, and despite any pretenses of humility on my part, it is this fact that makes her the best mother in the world, in my estimation. Without her, I have nothing, I am nothing.
I didn’t make her job easy, I can tell you that, though I eventually gave her some relief by growing up and conducting my mischief elsewhere.
At a recent birthday celebration, I gave a short speech focusing on her patience and steadfastness, things that my own children are currently trying to teach me. While those might be the qualities of my mother that stand out the most, they are not the only two.
Most of what she taught me, she did so less by saying it and more by doing it.
She taught me by example that it’s okay to have a solid, rewarding career and then leave that behind in order to focus on raising children. She showed us by doing it that it’s important to put aside your own needs and wants to make sure others are accommodated — while also knowing when to draw the line and not be a doormat — that the world only functions if some of us are making sacrifices for others.
She taught me the value of living in the now — my tendency is to dwell on the past or dream about the future, but our day-to-day lives only happened because my Mom was in the background holding it all together. Sure, it’s okay to plan next year’s vacation, but someone has to cook supper now, and then finish the laundry. That was my Mom.
Because of what she did for me over two decades, I rarely need her help these days. But I do like to call her and complain about something or other my children have done, because I like to hear that laugh of hers — the laugh that clearly says: “That’s exactly what you did as a child.”
Very often I meet people whose parents died young — my wife’s mother didn’t make it to 50, for example. And people who aren’t on speaking terms with their parents. People who’ve never met one or both of their parents. So I recognize how fortunate I am to still have both my mother and father living and healthy — and together.
Mom, on this Mother’s Day, know that I appreciate everything you did for us, and everything you still do. You’ve been a wonderful person to have in my life.