Today is Mother’s Day, 2009. I am the eldest of 3. I married my high school sweetheart 25 years ago, and despite the rough twenty years that began our marriage, in the last five years we have reached a level of happiness as a couple that cannot be explained in a simple blog post.
As the father of two, and the grandfather of two, hindsight is twenty-twenty. I now look at my parents with a set of eyes I did not possess when I was younger. Mom, after a very short marriage to my biological father, married a man that had just finished a tour in Vietnam as a United States Marine. He is technically my step-dad, but he will forever be “Dad.”
Mom was an only child, and he was the fourth of eight kids. She grew up in a nearly typical suburban setting without brothers or sisters to fight with, while he spent a lot of time as a child on a dairy farm in Arkansas, and part of his life bouncing around suburban areas in California, nearly as if he was chasing mom during his childhood, meanwhile fighting daily with his siblings. They seemed like an unlikely couple, and sometimes they were. It was mom, though, that always held things together.
Dad worked hard, showing his love through his dedication to provide for the family. Often, that is how men show their love. Mom stayed at home, and though at the time I considered her limited (since my eyes were not as wise and understanding as they are now), I never realized she was more of a mother than I could ever realize.
Dad often worked long hours, sometimes more than one job, and his day always ended with his head slumped back (mouth open) while he slept in the recliner chair in front of the television. His daily labor provided food on the table, and the slow progression from apartment living in rough neighborhoods to a modest home in an outlying suburban area just south of Corona.
Mom was always there for homework, baseball games (practically the team mom every time, even if she wasn’t technically the team mom), cross-country meets, and prayer. Every Sunday she ensured we were in church, even if dad preferred to stay home and dicker around the house, or watch the NFL. She bought us Bibles, took us to school, and hosted slumber parties full of rowdy friends from school. She was a referee when us kids began to fight, a detective when nobody owned up to bad behavior, and a chef when we were all hungry. He disciplined us, and she warned us she’d tell him of our misbehavior if we didn’t straighten up. Dad rarely had a chance to sit and relax, until he hit the recliner at night, and mom rarely stopped cleaning, mixing Kool-aid, telling us kids to clean our rooms, and cooking to keep the home his castle.
As I grew up in that household, I watched mom with untrained and immature eyes. Not realizing the error of my understanding, I always wondered why mom didn’t get a job to help dad pay for things. Most of my friends had moms that worked, and it seemed strange that my mom expected my dad to pay for everything. I saw how much he sacrificed to take care of his family, and mom not only didn’t work, but sometimes it seemed like her emotions were always getting the best of her. He provided a great example for me to emulate, but I sometimes wished mom had a little more on the ball when it came to being a part of the big wide world. Her lack of willingness to participate in an ever-changing world that included working moms concerned me. I almost began to resent her, a little, for making the poor man work so hard, while contributing so little to the financial well-being of the family. Sure, she was dependable at home, there for us at all times, and she was the main reason we went to church, but from an economic point of view, I foolishly sometimes saw her more as a hindrance, than anything.
I married at 18, and my wife was a working girl, even if it was a job at a fast food restaurant. I appreciated the help as we began our lives together relatively poor, living in a difficult neighborhood, and struggling just to put food on the table. Because of our schedules we often saw each other rarely, and as a Navy man, when sea-time came, sometimes I would not see her for months at a time. But, we were both working, both contributing, and both happy with our careers of the moment.
My wife was not necessarily a feminist, but I suppose she was about as close as you could get to becoming one without actually being one. However, as she realized our son was needing her more and more, and it broke her heart having him babysat all the time, even if the folks watching him were trusted family and friends, she eventually asked me if she could stop working. At first I was bothered by the request. Was she trying to be more like my mom? Did she not wish to contribute to the economic stability of our family anymore?
I agreed to allow her to quit working, and immediately the changes in our lives became apparent. Our son was happier, now that mom was home, and I began to enjoy a cleaner home and the occasional meal on the table when I got home from a long day at work. Eventually, she got to the point where she was up with me in the early morning hours, making me breakfast and packing me a lunch. It was difficult becoming the sole bread winner, but her contribution to making my life easier as I worked my fingers to the bone to provide, was greatly appreciated.
It wasn’t until many years of marriage passed when I finally stopped and began to analyze my childhood. I looked back at my mom, viewing her in a different light than I had before. Dad wasn’t sacrificing as I assumed, because he actually wanted to provide for his family, and he did it by putting his best foot forward in every job he held. Mom, happy to do for him, made sure that none of us kids had to sacrifice anything. She made breakfast, packed lunches, and had dinner hot on the table when dad walked in the door. And her emotions were not as debilitating as I thought. After all, her tears she sometimes shed were not of anger, but of love, and sometimes frustration, as life changed, and her babies were babies no longer. It must have been difficult watching the children she had poured so much love and time into grow up, replace her with a spouse, and leave without really giving her a proper goodbye.
Mom provided us with faith-based foundations that included lessons in values, standards, and love. Her strength made childhood easy, and looking back I realize she was a much stronger person than I ever was willing to admit. In fact, to my surprise, I realized that she was the rock of the family. Mom was the one that could always be depended on. Her love and support was like clockwork. Her faith and love a solid foundation for a family that needed her dearly.
My folks are still married, and now for all those years of being there for him, Dad is doing more for her in the form of adding to the house, and buying her the nice things she could never have while kids were running wildly around through the house.
Now, as I watch my wife, and her growth as a wife and a mother, I realize that she has given me the same gift my mom gave Dad. She is always there for me, providing a home, rather than simply a house, and doing for me in ways that I never dreamed she would. We have become friends, cherished lovers, and dependable servants to each other – and it has made our marriage stronger. I no longer expect her to do anything, and in response, she does everything – just as mom did for dad. In response, it makes me want to provide all I can for her, to be a better man, to make her life as enjoyable as I can.
And I think I appreciate my wife more, as I look back at my childhood, because of mom. It was because mom provided an example of what a mom and a wife ought to be, that I recognize how wonderful of a mother and wife my wife has become. And it is because of mom instilling morals, values, and the love of God in me that I am able to truly appreciate all that my wife has become.
Thanks mom, for your courage, caring, and love. Thanks for being a cook, nurse, referee, detective, and cleaning lady. Thanks for scolding me, loving me, cheering me on, and telling dad when I went too far with my mischief. And thanks to my lovely wife, too, for continuing the example of what a mom ought to be. My love for these two women in my life is boundless, and I cannot thank either of them enough, other than to say it is because of them that my life is truly blessed.
Thank you, and Happy Mother’s Day.
“She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.”