For most of my 44 years on this planet, I figured my mom was invincible.
This wasn’t necessarily because I was seeing her through the star-crossed eyes of a little boy who depended on his mother for food and shelter and clothing — although she certainly provided all of those things (particularly the food) — but rather because there appeared to be empirical evidence to support my claim.
Throughout most of my childhood, there was nothing my mother couldn’t do. From physical to mental to spiritual, I couldn’t find a feat too large for my mother to take on and vanquish. I would come to find out in early adulthood she was pretty good at faking some of it — but to me, that made all she did even more impressive.
With my father working long hours at his corporate job to make sure we never wanted for anything monetarily, my mother went above and beyond filling in the gaps in so many other facets of our lives. It was my mother who taught me how to swing a baseball bat and shoot a jump shot (two things I never became particularly good at — but it wasn’t for lack of effort on her part). She was the one who taught me to read and gave me a true love for the written word.
It was my mother who taught me to care for and keep my hands folded for those who need it, but to not be afraid to quickly dismiss and give the middle finger (literally) to those who deserved it. It was my mom who taught me the difference between right and wrong — but still to understand there are many shades of gray that are in between.
Whenever I had to move in or out of my college dorm or apartment, it was my mother who helped me load up the minivan and carry my mini-fridge, mattress and box springs up three flights of stairs. She was also the one who held me and let me know everything was going to work out OK when I was sitting in the car sobbing because I didn’t want to leave home the first time she had to move me in at college.
It was my mother who helped me survive my unfortunate teenage years, when my lack of dates was matched only by my lack of confidence in myself. It was my mother who listened when I felt as though I had no place else to turn.
It wasn’t just the big things she did, either — it was the little things too. It was my mother who made sure all five of her kids were in the right place at the right time for every school function and afterschool practice or game. It was my mother who had a hot meal on the table every night at dinner for her husband and children despite working a full-time job as a schoolteacher, where I imagine many of the 30 students she was with every day felt the same way about her as I did.
Not that my mother wasn’t without her failings when I was growing up, too. There was the time she somehow managed to superglue the bottle to her finger while fixing something around the house. Of course, she also ripped it off herself, then drove herself to hospital to get stitches. She often said, “If I could have driven myself to the hospital to have you kids, I would have.”
I never doubted her on that.
In the past few years, however, as my mother’s health problems have mounted — a stroke here, a broken hip there — I’ve finally started coming to the conclusion that my mother is not, in fact, invincible. Nobody is.
I don’t know how much longer my mother will be with us — if stubbornness counts for anything, though, probably a while longer. But for the first time in my life … I just don’t know. I guess I had always expected her to be around — the thought of that day when she’s not is probably something I just don’t want to contemplate.
So I won’t. Instead, I will try to enjoy every second I get to spend with my mother. I would encourage you to do the same, particularly with Mother’s Day coming up this weekend. So to all the mothers out there — mine, yours, those still here with us, those who are watching from above, biological or a motherly influence, thank you for everything.
Happy Mother’s Day.
You make the world a better place.
Reach David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong