“You’ll never understand until you have your own.” Those were some of the most profound words ever spoken to me by my mother as she tried to explain the strength behind the faded phrase on her favorite old T-shirt — she wore it to bed every night. “A Mother’s Love” was the message, but what did that mean?
After all, there were six of us, and she was a single mom working a full-time job with a 50-minute commute that could easily last several hours in the dead of winter in Lansing, Michigan. She managed to make us each feel as though we were her favorite; after all, it’s not humanly possible to disperse the love we were each shown in equal amounts.
We were a pretty average middle-class, Midwestern family. We didn’t have much, but our needs were a lot more minimal than kids of today. We were strictly raised to appreciate all that we did have – including each other. That was an easy task when we all saw how hard she worked to make our lives better, each and every day.
Simple needs like school clothes, Christmas gifts, holiday gatherings with family and friends and freedom to play outside as much as we wanted is all I remember wanting. Whatever the case may be, she always made us feel there wasn’t a need for much else.
The rules were simple: 1) be neat – house and clothes; 2) be respectful; 3) have manners; and 4) treat others as you would like them to treat you. Grow up to be a good man, and not only will things you wish for come your way, but good things that are not expected will arrive as well.
Truer words could not have been spoken. Fast-forward one wife, two children, a 98-year old grandmother and 40-plus years later, and still I have no idea how she did it. I mention my grandmother because I do know she played a huge role. She was always there for mom — along with my late grandfather. Whatever she/we needed, whenever she/we needed it. A Mother’s Love.
I have my hands completely full with two smart, beautiful and very socially active kids whose mother works from home. I find myself telling my mom that her folklore has officially reached Super Hero status for raising six kids with no father in the house. How did she do that?
I now watch in amazement as my wife juggles work and life, me and our kids, and I see Wonder Woman all over again. She’s strong, beautiful and amazing, and the most thoughtful person I’ve ever met. I married a new- age version of my mother and grandmother rolled into one. Talk about things not expected. I didn’t even think I was marriage material, and I’m blessed with an opportunity to spend the rest of my life with my soul mate.
I’m still not really sure how my life journey ended up here in Napa – from Michigan — living in the most beautiful place in the world, but I tell her: “Thank you taking the wheel and bringing me along for the ride.”
I often joke with her about wanting to trade places with our kids, and most of the time it’s after witnessing how she absolutely loves, cherishes and adores them every minute of their lives. My son must tell her he loves her 15 times a day! I’m not making that up, and there are times I might get a little jealous/envious, but I completely understand. A Mother’s Love.
My grandmother’s 98th birthday is actually May 17, and I hope to get back to celebrate with my family. Whether I make it back or not, I know that my mom is making plans to make sure that it’s a very special day. Although she lives about 40 miles away, she now makes sure that my grandmother gets whatever she needs, whenever she needs it. No easy task when you’re 75 years of age yourself. She does it without hesitation. Not only is she assisting with the needs of my grandmother, but also my physically disabled aunt, who was paralyzed as a result of a surgical procedure gone bad.
Did I mention the fact the she also heavily shares in the responsibilities of raising a multitude of grandkids and great grandkids. I often plead with her to be a little more selfish and to make more time for herself — she certainly deserves it. It often appeared that she was working even harder to take care of her now fully-grown kids — and their families. It didn’t seem fair to me. Her response was always the same “you’ll never understand until you have your own.”
I now understand. I still can’t fully explain it, but I understand. A Mother’s Love. That’s the faded phrase on my new favorite T-shirt. Happy Mother’s Day.