Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Just a few years ago I learned something about my mom I never knew before. At five years of age my mother was cooking dinner most nights for her entire family.
Her mother (my grandmother, "Bombo," the first grandchild's attempt to say "grandma!") was often bed-ridden with a debilitating heart condition. Mother's older sister, Elizabeth, was a severe diabetic who died as a teenager. Most days "Bombo" was either ill in bed or nursing her fragile diabetic daughter.
So my five year old mother looked after her two baby brothers, Buddy and Tom. And when dinnertime came, mom dragged the step stool over to the gasoline stove, hopped up on it, lit the flame, and cooked grits and eggs for the whole brood. It was Depression era, and most nights my Granddaddy got home from the two jobs he worked just in time to tuck all the kids into bed. Mom shook her head as she remembered how the flame from that gas stove shot straight up to the ceiling, "It's a wonder I didn't burn the house down!" she laughed.
Mom told me that story as a funny reminiscence. But it was a huge eye-opener for me. I realized that as a five year old--and all throughout her childhood--my mom had to carry far more responsibility than any little child should have to.
What about your mother? She very likely experienced her own burdens, or emotional wounds and injuries growing up. Maybe she didn't feel loved or nurtured, maybe no physical touch or empathy was expressed to her growing up, and she couldn't give to you what she didn't have.
Maybe when you were a child she was ill or depressed, or had other problems you didn't realize at the time. Perhaps her marriage was a mess, or your other siblings' problems consumed her, or maybe she had challenges or responsibilities with her own parents and family members.
As the old saying goes, if we haven't walked in someone else's shoes, we have no idea what they've gone through or what they're dealing with. If you think about some of the stressful times in your own adult life, and then imagine having a child at that time with all that was going on, you can have a little better understanding and empathy for what your own mother was going through when you were a child. You can release her from your unmet expectations of her; you can forgive her for what she couldn't give you.
To try to understand your mother's past and current life circumstances, even her frailties and weaknesses, and accept them, is to begin to love her as she is. Understand where she came from, what she's been through, what the demands were on her life . . . and you'll find it easier to relate to her, accept her, and more fully appreciate her.
So this Mother's Day, if you're able, ask your mom about her own life. It can be pretty enlightening. You'll start to see her, not just who she is in relation to you, but actually get to know her, to discover and appreciate more and more who she really is.
And by doing that you honor your Mother! Happy Mother's Day!
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