Monday, May 12, 2014

To My Mother...

*I'm fully aware that Mother's Day was Sunday, and I had every intention of getting this written and posted to the blog by Sunday night at the latest.  But, sometimes life (i.e. 6-hour drives, medical school graduation parties, amazing naps, and all around exhaustion) gets in the way.  So, for that, I sincerely apologize, Mom.  The delay is in no way an indication of the order of my priorities.

I've often been told by friends and family that I have an impeccable memory.  Perhaps it doesn't apply to minute details of everyday life...Sometimes I forget where I last placed my wallet, or I'll go to the store with a mental list of 5 items and conveniently forget to pick up the most important one.  Sometimes I'll mindlessly throw laundry into the dryer just minutes after specific instructions to not dry a particular pair of Adrienne's jeans because they shrink, then receive a text message hours later chastising me for my oversight because I "don't listen" or something.  But, when it comes to past experiences, my memory is admittedly pretty good.  I not only remember the order of events, or funny stories, but I'll remember exact dates, and even the days surrounding it like a mental timeline.  I'll remember what I was wearing, what I had for lunch, or what the weather was like.  It isn't perfect, but I feel blessed in my ability to hold on to precious memories so vividly.

That likely comes from my mom.  Not so much the ability to remember things, because my mom can be as absent-minded as an individual can be.  But, taking special care to focus on seemingly insignificant details that end up shaping the memories we have years later...That comes from her.

Part of it is the seemingly endless volumes of family photos Mom has compiled over the years.  In my parents' bookcase at their house, there are 10-15 photo albums filled to the brim, and painstakingly organized chronologically, with pictures of every Christmas gift Lensey and I have ever received, school assemblies, baseball and softball games, random afternoons playing in the yard.  Some shots of Lensey and I sleeping, which are admittedly a bit creepy to me now.  Every vacation has been fully documented, every snow, every Halloween...The list goes on and on.  But, as much as I make fun of her for taking 15 pictures of the same thing, I'm really glad she took the time to do that.  Not only does it freeze those moments in time, it helps provide me with reference points for some of those memories I have that might start to fade.  She's had an uncanny ability to not only preserve those memories in that way, but also to recognize their significance as they're happening..."Making memories!" She'll exclaim with her signature laugh as Dad, Lensey, and I all roll our collective eyes.

Many of the memories I have of my childhood revolve around something funny or silly my mom did, either purposely or completely by accident.  But therein lies much of her charm.  As cliche as it may sound, my mom truly possesses the ability to love life, and find joy in virtually any situation.  Even if you're only around her for a short time, that exuberance is contagious and impossible to ignore.  She can do or say something completely ridiculous, but laugh so hard at herself that you almost forget what it was she did in the first place.  If you're in a bad mood when she comes into your presence, it won't last very long.

One of the things I love most about my mom has been the way she has let me grow into the man I have become.  Yes, there have been plenty of times where she has turned into Beverly Goldberg from The Goldbergs (which, if you haven't watched, you need to) where she seems to think I am 4 years old regardless of the circumstances.  But, she has also allowed me to make my own decisions and mistakes, with the hope that I'd make the right choice.  And, when I didn't, she has always been there to support me and pick up the pieces.  It has always seemed like she knew exactly when to be Mom, and when to let off the reins.

I don't know many people that are as thoughtful and selfless as she is.  There have been times where she's practically killed herself to make sure someone else's needs were met, or just to let them know she was thinking about them during a difficult time.  Sometimes I've even asked her, "Mom, why are you doing all this?" And she'll look at me as if I had asked her the most ridiculous question ever conceived and reply, "Because it's the right thing to do."  But, that's just her.

Many of the lessons I've learned from my mom have been in that manner.  I'm sure there have been countless times where she has sat me down and explicitly explained a particular thing to me so I could learn, but I remember most of what she has taught me by watching the way she acts and treats other people, when she likely had no idea I was paying any attention.  Those unspoken lessons have deterred me from taking the wrong path countless times, and made me feel like crap when I chose to take it.

I watched her love her family unconditionally.  I watched her set the table for dinner virtually every single night, no matter how many baseball games or track meets we had that week.  It mattered to her that the family sat down together every night, even if the meal happened to be a bucket of KFC.  I watched her roam the halls of my elementary school for four years, just so she could be available for Lensey and I as we grew through our most formidable years.  I watched her kiss my dad goodbye as he left for work at 3:30 in the afternoon to go to a job he hated, and shuttle Lensey and I back home to an empty house so she could do laundry for a family of four.  I watched her sit in sweltering heat for hours on end as I played in weekend tournament after weekend tournament, when I'm sure she would have rather been floating on the lake.  I watched her close the door to my bedroom after she kissed me and said, "I love you, hon," every night.

Of all the things I've seen my mother do in my 29 years on this earth, perhaps the things I didn't see are even more important.

I never saw her complain.  I never saw her break down and cry just because she was frustrated or lonely, or just down right sad.  I never saw her fight with my dad.  I never saw her worry about where the next mortgage payment would come from when my dad was laid off from work.  I never saw her accept anything but the best from Lensey and me.  I never saw the countless sacrifices she made for us.  I never saw the person she envisioned herself to be and never got to, or the dreams she gave up on, because of us. I never saw her once ask for anything in return when she gave us absolutely everything she could.

I never saw her as anything but the greatest woman I know.  Happy Mother's Day, Mom.  I love you!