Seriously, I'm writing about her again. Are you tired of hearing about my sainted moma, imaginary readers? I'm afraid I can't stop, and in any case, it's at least seasonally appropriate that I write about her today. Indulge me?
I realized long ago that the unintended lesson I was learning in being my moma's child was about the kind of mother I wanted to be. This is probably true of most everyone. Even if the lesson is learned negatively ("I'll never say/do that to my children"), we learn about the ways we do and don't want to parent from our parents. I know you'll be surprised to hear that I think my moma is the last word in good examples of mothering. You know, because I never talk about her amazingness or how crazy I am about her. I'm not a mother, and maybe I never will be, but if I ever am, and if as a mother I ever get anything right, we'll all know it's because of her.
The thing I'm learning lately, the idea that sprang into my head and said "write me" this week, is that besides that showing-me-how-to-be-a-moma example that I've noticed and cherished and taken for granted for the past thirty years, my moma's been teaching me by example all along how to be a daughter. And since there's no someday or maybe attached to that one, it's what I should have been noticing and cultivating and praying would take root in my grown-up daughter self.
I've always known that my moma loved and was close to her parents. Gramps and Grams were a part of our daily lives. We saw them all the time, and it wasn't just because we were adorable and charming grandchildren (though we were) or because my moma sometimes needed free baby-sitting (though she did). We went to their house every Sunday and Wednesday night after church of my life and most of the Sunday afternoons too. We went with them--or at least met up with them there--to visit my great-grandmother every week when I was little (wonder where my moma learned about being a good child?). When my moma started working at Garan, she went to their house every day for lunch and every day after work, to drink coffee and visit. She spent time with them because it was what she wanted and needed and what they wanted and needed too, because family is her happy place. Is it any wonder I adore her and the Popster the way that I do having watched her adore her own olds all my life?
My moma remembers and tells stories about Gramps and Grams all the time. She knows stuff about them as children and recounts details of their lives from before she was born in addition to all the memories from her own life that are wrapped up in G & G. She knows these stories because she's listened and asked and committed to her heart details, the snippets and vignettes that add up to who her parents are. Without ever realizing who I was imitating, I can do the same. When the Handful ask for stories from when I was a little girl, I quickly run out of entertaining or memorable (non-frightening) stories, so I tell stories about Nana (that's what the Handful call my moma). Her stories are my best ones. And in the same way we pass along stories about our beloved Gramps, whom the Handful never knew, I want to believe that someday Pointer, Bird, Ring, Pinkie, and Thumb will be telling their own kiddos (or grandkiddos) about Nana and the escaped panther or all the dog stories or how she and the Popster first met as little neighbor children (to be honest, I make this one more romantic than it actually is, but it makes up in charm and good storytelling what it lacks in truth).
But being a daughter isn't all sweetness and perfection and heart-warming anecdotes, and my moma (and her sisters to share the love and appropriate credit where it's due) shows me that too, the bravery and heartache and sacrifice of being a daughter. Right now we're living through a time of concern and uncertainty and prayerful worry for Grams, my moma's moma. It's not been easy on any of us, but the truth is that she's been slowing and weakening at varying rates of speed for a long time now. Nothing about that changes the love and devotion and joy that my moma has in Grams, but it does, I think, complicate it.
It's that role reversal common to most families, where the person who has always taken care of you starts requiring care. I've watched my moma do this for years, even before Gramps died. She sorted out their medicines and drove them to the doctor and came and drank coffee with them every day so they wouldn't be bored or lonely, and it's only gotten bigger since Gramps died and Grams aged. It was such a natural progression in our lives that I didn't always realize how it might sometimes be inconvenient or how it must hurt her to have to become the strong one, the caregiver. I didn't know it was brave or difficult or a sacrifice because it just looked like love. It didn't look like a choice because to a daughter who has always cherished her moma and daddy it was the only choice.
That's the lesson she's teaching me these days: an example that's declaring war on my selfish nature and a love that is patient and kind, that always protects and always perseveres, that never fails.
Happy Mother's Day to my moma and her moma. May I someday be a daughter worthy of them.