My mom has always shown me she was proud of me. When I was in a singing competition in the first grade, she was so excited she made flyers and handed them out to my entire class.
From Kindergarten to college, I was in as many plays as there were auditions. She wrapped foam rollers into my hair and came to every show. She has cheered me on in every role – from Cinderella’s stepsister to Eli, Addy and George’s mom.
But I wonder if she knows how proud I am of her.
Five months after I gave birth to my first son, we found out my mom had late-stage cancer. Through the treatments and tests, she never complained. In fact, she still continued to take care of us even as we tried to take care of her.
My mother is always there for everyone. Have I been there enough for her?
When I was 15, we had an elderly across-the-street neighbor who didn’t have any family in town. So Mom would bring her groceries (Nature’s Own Honey Wheat bread – I now buy the same for my kids), sit with her in the afternoon, and invite her to every holiday at our house. We drove Miss Agee to the hospital the night she died, and we stayed until there was nothing else we could do.
Mom was there for me through every breakup and blunder. (Too many to count.) She was there, on the phone, when my crazed ex-boyfriend climbed the second-story balcony of my first apartment. She was there, even when I lied or messed up.
When I became a mother myself, tears streaming down my face as the baby screamed at 3 a.m., she told me I’d better pull it together, because he needed me. She was right.
Now she is there for my family of five, any time we need her. (And we need her a lot.)
My parents are in that delicate stage of life where they are present for me and my children, but also needed more and more by their own parents. So my mom is being pulled in many directions.
“Can you take Eli to guitar?” … “Will you watch the baby?” … “Can we come swim?”
But also: “Papa has fallen.” … “Mimi needs a ride to her appointment.”
These things are not burdens. I know she is happy to do them. But the cumulative weight of caring for everyone else can get heavy.
So, last night, I reminded her – this is her gift.
She has been good at it all her life – caring first for little sisters, then for me and my brother, and now for grandchildren and grandparents at the same time.
Painters paint, not only for the people who will hang their work on their walls, but also because it stirs something deep within their soul. They do it because it’s who they are. They do it because they can’t not.
When life gets heavy, remember your gifts. If your gift is caring for others, make time to care for yourself. If you’re a wonderful listener, make sure your voice is heard, too. If you host a great party, make friends who also host you.
Whatever your gift may be, I hope you get to use it often. But if it ever feels heavy, you can always rely on the gifts of others – a warm cup of tea prepared by a friend, a peanut butter kiss from a child, or a few words written by a daughter who wants to lift you up.
(Just like you’ve always lifted me, Mom.)