Today marks the 38th anniversary of the death of my mom, who died when I was a young boy. I hope this tribute to her might remind a few moms about the value they bring to their kids. Every day.
So where do I start? It's hard to believe that you died 38 years ago. A lifetime.
Yeah. Whatever that term means.
For you, that meant 49 years. I've already had more time here than you were given. I think about that often, Mom. When you died, I didn't think of you as old. Or young. You were just Mom. And since I was only 14, I couldn't put into perspective how tragic the whole thing was. It happened so fast. Eight days from the time you got sick.
Eight. I have a basket of dirty sheets in the laundry room that's been sitting there for more than eight days. It's amazing how quickly the world -- and our life -- changed.
The day after you died, I was sitting on the front porch of the house. There were too many people inside and everyone was saying really stupid things to me. I wanted to be alone. But then Coach A walked up to the house. Remember him? I know you always liked him. He had all those boys. Like us. And he sat down with me. He really didn't say anything for a long time, until...
"Your mom taught you a lot," he eventually said. "Ya gotta keep those lessons alive."
And all I remember thinking was that I had no idea what those lessons were.
You'll be glad to know that I've come to figure a lot of them out. Not the whole thing. Yeah, I still get regular nuggets of your wisdom. They come out of nowhere. As do most of the meaningful things in my life.
I still fantasize about having you back. Even for a day. You know, I can't remember your voice anymore. That's probably the one thing I hate most. I have photos of you and letters from you, but I have nothing with your voice. And I don't remember it. I know you laughed often. So, when I picture you, you're smiling. Or laughing. And cooking. And doing laundry. And driving. And cheering.
Did you ever tire of baking cookies?
You're smiling, aren't you? My comment about those nuggets of wisdom coming out of nowhere is making you smile. I know.
That's Lesson #1, isn't it? You have to be present in your life to receive the gifts waiting for you.
But you never really told me that, did you? I probably wouldn't have listened anyway. But you lived it. You really did, Mom. You did a lot of things right. You had a few struggles here and there. How could you not? You lived in a fraternity house with six guys! But what you did perfectly was simply live in the moment. In body. In emotion. In spirit. You were brilliant with that. Brilliant.
Now that I'm a parent, I know how hard that really is. And I know how tempting it is to get distracted by so many other things -- thinking they're important. But you were really good at staying focused on the things that were in front of you. Which for you, usually meant five boys. (And by the way, major points to you for always shooting down anyone who tossed you a negative comment about how hard it must be to raise a bunch of boys. Your comeback line only made us love you more. And I hope you really did feel like you were the "luckiest mom" on the planet).
It's a crazy world these days, Mom. And parenting is a hot topic. There's a lot of debate over which way is better, who's better, who has it all, who doesn't, what kids need, what kids don't need. The debate (and passion) is really too much. Sometimes, I think we debate and argue and judge at the expense of just being there for our children.
So I just try to focus on the simple things. I try to be there for my kids. Your grandkids. (You'd love them all, by the way. Kevin has your sense of adventure; Wallis, your strength and determination; and Drew is the most compassionate kid you'll meet.) They all carry a bit of you into the world
I try my best to be there for them. Flaws and all. I try to validate them as people. I try to show them through my actions that they matter. I try to live a life that constantly reinforces to them that they are my priority. Above all.
Because you were my mother, I am a better father. And I know that how I choose to fill my days matters.
And I know that the smallest things I do as their parent -- even the seemingly unimportant or mundane things -- are the very things that matter most.
Keep it simple, right? And be present. I'm slowly figuring it out, Mom.
After all, as our family well knows, you never know what curveball today -- or the next eight days -- will bring.
You were a wonderful mother. I'm sorry I never told you that. You planted goodness in the world, Mom. An expansive forest of goodness.
I'm awfully proud to be your son. And I love you very much.
(From the author's personal library)
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