Happy Mother's Day. I hope everyone who cares and nurtures others feels appreciated today.
Amidst a blur of some life complications - wait, when don't we have life complications? But anyway, let's just say these complications took more than the usual amount of my brain capacity, and so this year's Mother's Day was nearly in danger of being given short shrift.
As they say, "if you want to make GOD laugh, tell him your plans." Eleven days ago, my dad, who is a couple of weeks shy of 90 years old, had to have emergency surgery - and yes, there were complications. For those of you with aging parents, you can probably imagine that among other things, my car is now on autopilot from my house to the hospital and back.
But today - on Mother's Day, after our family brunch, which we still managed to pull together, and a trip to the hospital to visit dad - which is a twice-daily excursion, I'm taking a moment to be calm; to ponder mothers - particularly my own mother, and to be appreciative of mothering, and all it entails.
What I'm also thinking about on this rare serene afternoon after the chaos of the past couple of weeks is multigenerational caregiving. Me, my mom, my husband, my sister, my brother - my nieces, my kids -- the whole mishpucha has gotten involved. It truly does and will take a mini-village, as we take care of not only my dad, but my mom as well.
My mother, who is 87, did a lot of mothering in her day - not that we were such a large family - I'm only one of three kids. But my mother grew up in a family of five children, she being the eldest. And since her father died when she was 18 years old, and her siblings were quite young at the time, she was very involved in helping her mom raise them.
Now, a lot of Mother's Days have come and gone, and my parents, who have become more fragile over the years, live with my husband and me. I'm in my sixties - and life is coming full-circle. It has happened gradually, but I now find myself in the position of mothering not only my own four children, but under some circumstances, my mother and my father as well.
My generation has been called the largest gray nation the planet has ever known. We will have the responsibility of taking care of our parents, those of us lucky enough to still have them, and hopefully, when the time comes, having learned from our example, our children will be benevolent to us as well. Mothers and daughters - for the most part - will be the shepherds; the caregivers.
Oh, fathers and brothers will participate in caregiving too - my husband, for example, is stellar at this job - it's in his DNA. But, I should mention that his training was a more communal, stick-by-your-parents style of upbringing. He's Israeli, and in Israel, family is sacrosanct - you take care of your own. Grandparents, parents - everyone is gathered in. I'm so lucky he feels that way. Because of him, my parents have lived with us for fifteen years.
As we honor mothers and their instinct to care for children, husbands, mothers, grandmothers, fathers, grandfathers, everyone around them, i.e., multigenerational caregiving, I realize that the concept of generational mothering, nurturing, and caring is not only important to the well-being of the family unit, but is also part of family lore, it's culturally part of who we are, and intricately woven into the fabric of our lives - the stories we share. Wives and mothers and daughters care for their husbands and fathers, and often their grandfathers too.
My sweet little mom -- a cheerful, huggable lady, once the matriarch of our side of the family, who is now stuck in a body that has basically broken down on her due to arthritis and osteoporosis --spends her days and nights worrying, along with me, my siblings, my husband, and in fact, our entire family, about my dad.
Now, I have become the matriarch. I am the one carefully watching over all of them, particularly my mom as she sits by my dad's side in her wheel chair, holding his hand and staring at him. I see her tenderness - the nurturing, mothering side of her projects onto my dad as if he was her child, and it takes my breath away.
Mothering is tricky work. You must be a wife, a mother, and a daughter. You must balance laughter with the right amount of tears. You need to be a daughter, and yet find the strength to be a mother to your parent at times too.
I bite my lip to hold back tears as I pet my dad's silver-white hair on his head. His eyes closed, he acknowledges how good it feels, and mouths a barely audible "love you, sugar babe." All the while I'm talking gently to him about the garden, the roses, his vegetables, his woodshop, and whatever I can to get him to envision ANYTHING other than being in a hospital bed. He misses home. He longs for a glass of milk and a cinnamon roll. I tell him we'll have it ready.
My mothering instincts are silently screaming, wanting to surround both my father and mother in calm, sweet and gentle positivity that all this shall soon pass, and my dad will regain his strength, and come home and get right back into his wood shop and create something beautiful with his strong hands. I hold my mom's tiny shoulders, and kiss her cheek. We change places from time to time, because all of a sudden she'll turn the tables and take my hand, or put her hand on my cheek and just look at me and tell me that I'm such a good girl. Now that is a tearjerker.
So, on this 2013 Mother's Day, I am honoring all Mothers and Daughters of any generation, because you have either done it all, or will learn to do it all. Hopefully you'll have a loving, understanding husband by your side. You may find that like me, you'll guide your own mother through sad and dark moments, when she gazes at a husband of more than six decades, lying open-mouthed, tubes running in and out of his body, nearly unrecognizable to the spunky, crotchety, potty-mouthed, curious, engaging, artistic, wood-working, mountain-loving man she has lived beside nearly all her life. You'll find the will to be optimistic despite the difficulties, and you'll bring light into the room.
At the same time, you will twirl your other plates, maintain connections with the outside world, love and nurture your husband, your children, attend to your job, and pursue your passions.
Sounds like a never-ending story, with no resting spots, doesn't it? Welcome to mothering. Yet, I don't worry that any of us will run out of strength to handle our mothering duties any time soon. Our hearts and souls have a limitless supply of unconditional love, and are wrapped tightly around those we care about. That love is the source of the energy that keeps us going - from one generation to the next.
So, Mom - I'm pretty sure Dad's coming home soon. Meantime, have a Happy Mother's Day.