My mom is turning 80 today. As a writer, I want to convey all of my thoughts, my emotions, into the perfect masterpiece to share with her today, but I find myself critiquing every word. How do you say Happy Birthday to someone you thank God for everyday, someone you feel blessed to still have; someone you are fiercely protective of, yet want to encourage as much independence as you can? “Happy 80th Birthday Mom” just doesn’t seem enough.
As my mom enters her octogenarian years, I think back to how our lives, our relationship has changed. As the youngest of six, I truly feel lucky to have had older parents. I would find it funny when my friend’s grandparents were the same age as my parents. I was ok with my mom & dad being older and parents, not best friends. I think I always felt just a little closer to my dad growing up. I wanted to be with him more. My mom was a stay at home mom until I went into first grade, then she started working. Since she would work until 4, my dad would get home earlier so I just alway seemed to be with him when he was home. My parents were more relaxed with me. They had raised 5 kids already. They were on “autopilot” with me.
I learned some interesting lessons from my mom, long before I even realized they were lessons. The older I get, the more I realize how much I am truly BOTH of my parents. I used to think I was so much of my dad’s daughter, but there is more of my mom than I would have ever imagined.
I learned to be there for others when they needed you. Growing up, mom would always be the first to volunteer to help someone, to recognize a need in others and help. I didn’t realize these were lessons when I was younger. I used to think…why are you spending time with them or spending time doing that; instead of with me, or me and my sister(s). It wasn’t until I was older, I realized she was always there for others, sometimes when no one else was.
I learned tea is more than tea. True friendships are solid. The world could get along better with tea. My mom’s best friend, Pat, comes over about once a week, and has for as long as I can remember. My mom would turn the teakettle on and they would proceed to get caught up on family, politics, neighbors. No topic seemed taboo. I never heard them disagree about an opinion. I never see my mom drink hot tea except when Pat was over. We grew up going on vacations with the two families. Pat is usually at any major family events when she can be. They both may be getting older, but tea time still takes place. They each sit at the exact same spot at the kitchen table they always have, and they still solve the problems of the world, or at least the problems in their worlds, their communities, their families.
My whimsical, non-sensical, side is all her. From her passion for Hallmark Christmas ornaments, to her cute knick knacks. She has a flair for finding the cute, the different, the unique….and loves it. I never realized until recently how that transferred over to me. It is this side, combined with my science & math side, that makes me so great in optical, in problem solving in general. I can look beyond the part that makes “sense” and twist it to make it perfect. I can see past what is in front of me to picture what is needed.
Mom has a sense of adventure I never saw as a child. She is always willing to go somewhere. She is always willing to experience something. The past few summers with mom have been the highlight of my summer. She might not be able to walk very well but get her in her scooter and she is ready to go! She has lasted all day at Disney World, she has gone to the rodeo, she has survived days at the zoo in 95 + degrees. She loves doing things. You can always see a smile on her face when she is out seeing what the world has to offer. Her willingness to just go, to just do something different is amazing to me. Might even be why I was willing to go pick my nephew up at 12:30am so he could join me and my niece on our quest to find Pokemon.
Her love for family is strong. Her family, including her extended family, is the most important thing to her. When asked what she wanted for for 80th birthday, she said, “for all of her kids and grandkids to be with her”. She didn’t want a big party. She just wanted us all together. So guess what? Every one of my siblings and their kids and grandkids will be together with her celebrating the amazing woman she is. My mom is such a trusting person. She looks for the good in others and believes in them. I am a cynical person by nature. I question. I dig. It is because of her I’m often willing to forgive. To give a second chance.
Mom is always willing to accept those as they are. I used to say she looked at life through rose colored glasses like it was a bad thing. Now, as an adult, I realized it is a good thing. It makes you accept life as it is. It helps you navigate through the tough times.
My mom is stronger than I could ever imagine. From the pain she endures because of her arthritis to the emotional scars she has from life in general. Losing both of her brothers fairly young, to caring for her husband as Alzheimer’s took his mind before his body. She took those moments. She bore the pain. She came out stronger on the other side. It is because of her, her strength, I know I can get through anything as well.
I am so blessed to have the amazing mother than I have. I look forward to celebrating her 80th birthday with her and my family today and look forward to many more summer adventures with her and many more birthday celebrations!