Beginner's Heart

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When I count the many elements of my life for which I’m grateful, my mother-in-law (and father-in-law) are BIG. I recognise that many women don’t even like their mother-in-laws, much less love them like a 2nd mother. Not me. For years, my mother-in-law has been one of my best of friends, a cracker-jack mentor, and the most present of rôle models. In her prime, she was a Shakespearean scholar, a great cook, a rose gardener, a feeder of birds, a lover of mystery novels, and the best friend & grandmother you can imagine. Not to mention her husband of 67 years died holding her hand… Who wouldn’t see Mom as flat-out amazing?

Now? She’s far quieter, the victim of her longevity, in some ways. Today she turns 95. Wow. Almost a century, Mom. How did you do it? You ate things the docs said weren’t great for you (margarine, ice cream, a LOT of homemade chocolate chip cookies). You didn’t take vitamins until your 60s, to my knowledge. And you never ran or did any ‘scheduled’ exercise.Mom & me

But here you are, 95 years old on Ground Hog Day. Which tickled you to tell folks: my birthday is Ground Hog Day, you’d say. And then laugh. Now, when your beloved son & I tell you ‘you’re no spring chicken!’ (in response to your desires to feel more active!), you ask how old you are. When we tell you, you make that face: the one w/ the raised eyebrows, the shake of the head, and loud ‘AAAAH!’ How, you ask, did that happen?? And when?

I’ve been with you for 45 of those years, Mom. You made me welcome, treated me like another daughter, and taught me how important it is to listen. So often when I called you for a recipe (long distance from the Middle East, no less — $1 a minute!), or to ask about a child’s illness, or to complain about your son’s boneheadedness, you just listened. Then would gently pull back from advice, offering only the recipe, or your love. ‘Only.’ The best stuffing in the world. The experience of decades raising three children. The knowledge of what it takes to make marriage work.

I love you, Mom. And I hope that all these years you’ve had an idea just how very important you are to me. My own mother was a wonderful person, but not a teacher. Not a scholar, not a lover of poetry (although my father was). When I got my degrees, you & Dad were as proud of me as any parents. And you never asked me ‘what will you do with them?’ You knew that isn’t the point to knowledge.Mom at our wedding 2

So here I am, these many years later, Mom. A far better person/ teacher/ friend/ mother-in-law (I hope!)/ wife and friend and grandmother and all of it…because of you. As you become less & less distinct, fading like a well-loved photograph, I am struggling to just be there for you. As you have been for me, so many many times. One of the many many lessons I breathed in just being with you…

It’s a hard lesson in beginner’s heart. But you deserve anything and everything I can offer. And on this day, dedicated to the great gift of YOU, I’m so very grateful. For every visit to the lake, every time you taught me a new skill, every time you listened to me rattle on. I can’t imagine the paucity of my life w/out you.

Happy Birthday, Mom. May all your dreams be of the love you inspire.

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