Monday, December 5, 2011

My Mother the Hero - Happy Birthday, mom!

On this day in 1953, the most beautiful woman was born. My mother.

As you could see, physically she is a beautiful person, but that's easy. Anyone these days could be beautiful on the outside... ask Hollywood. Nip there, tuck that, staple these, push up those. But being beautiful, like my mother, takes much greater care.

Friends have often said that my mother is like no other mother. It wasn't just because she gave me countless rides to friends' houses. It was because she would pick up all of my friends at their houses to come over and then drop them off at their houses at night. Granted this also meant I was home where she could keep a close eye (I see your game plan now, ma. Did I mention she was smart too?) It wasn't just because she would never miss a recital, concert, or competition for either me or my sister. It was because she worked a crazy schedule at a job that never closed and sometimes only slept a few hours and still managed to make it to all of these things. It wasn't just because she would do anything to make my sister and I happy. It was because she would stop at every park that we spotted as little kids, because she drove me to watch a Yankee game with friends from the city in high school and then came back to pick me up so that I was safe under her care and still happy, because she made me home cooked meals when I was in college and drove them to me, because there was no one more involved and more concerned with my wedding planning and birth of my child than her.

That is what makes her a great mother, but she is so much more than a mother. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that this woman in front of me my whole life is something more than a mother. I forget that she was someone way before I came along and still is. Especially now that I have my own daughter, I realize that being a mother, while a huge part of a woman's life, is still only part of who a woman is.

Dora, the wife, is no less amazing. To say that she has been an incredible wife and partner is downplaying the kind of companion she has been. She has taken care of my father and loved him from the moment they met. And to say that my dad can be difficult is downplaying my dad. While he is one of my favorite people, I have no doubt where my temper and hard-headedness comes from. And as she has loved me unequally through my difficult nature, she has loved him unwaveringly as well. When my grandmother, my dad's mother, had a stroke and aneurism, and we knew that she was not coming out of it, it seemed that she was holding on to something. Devoted to my father, who was her life, we knew it was him she was holding on for. My mother said to her, "Hilda, don't worry. I will never leave him and I will always take care of him. You can go." I knew then and now that my mother meant that. And so did my grandmother because a few moments later, she let go.

Dora, the daughter has been one that I have seen to its full extent in the last number of years. When my grandparents started to get to the point that they could no longer take care of themselves alone, my mother went to Miami, packed them up and moved them into our home. She knew the responsibility that awaited her and took it face on. In the last few years, when my grandfather became increasingly sicker, my mother grounded her feet, looked ahead and did not turn back. Caring for an elderly person is something to be admire because it is not easy, to say the least. Forget that she had to change him, feed him, and bathe him. She watched her father turn from a vibrant, social, charismatic man to a frail body that no longer wanted to be of this world. Imagine having to watch every moment of that? How impossibly sad. And yet, she knew that there was no other way for her to do it. She would never leave him in a home even when hospital personnel and many of us told her that it would be for the best. She vowed she would be as good a daughter as he was a father, not knowing that she had already done that ten fold.

Dora, the woman, is a force to be reckoned with. Soft-spoken, diplomatic, and kind are not words that you would associate with such a force but in my mom's case, it is it exactly. She is unstoppable, a beast. I have never seen someone juggle so many people and so much life at the same time. When it comes to family you can't tell her "no" - there's just no point because she doesn't give up. Perhaps one of my favorite things about my mom (and the one I make fun of her for too) is that she is not a superficial person. She doesn't care about clothes and shoes and what she is wearing. She is confident in who she is and has so many more important things to concern herself with that her appearance doesn't factor in (I didn't get this from her). Her priority is in taking care of others. She is realized. Unlike many people, I know, she is happy with her life and what it has given her. Sure, she probably has regrets, who doesn't, but she never looks at what life has given her and says, "Oh, that's too bad." She understands that life can hand you hard times, but the good outweighs the bad. She's not a complainer. That is not to say, that she won't express how she's feeling, she just doesn't need to whine about it. I have never met anyone, and probably never will, that is so genuinely good. She doesn't take for herself. She doesn't talk badly about people. She barely thinks bad about people. Too many times, I have been upset or angry with others and she always, in her diplomatic way, tries to help me see their side. And knowing me and how impossible that could be, she still tries to do this. Did I mention, she's unshakeable and consistent?

My mother, the hero, if you are lucky enough to know, saves anyone. If you ask for help, she will give it to you. If you don't ask for it, chances are, she'll still give it to you. She doesn't turn her back on anyone. I am proud to say that although I may be quite different from my mom in composure and patience this is one quality I am without doubt has come from her, the certainty that if you need me, I will be there. Sometimes, especially when it involves me driving a distance, she will ask, "Isn't there anyone else that can drive out there to help?" And I look at her like, really? Really? Who do you think I got this from? I have seen my mother help so many people that it would be impossible, physically and emotionally impossible, for me to not be the same way. And then she wonders why I pick stray cats up off the street... now you know, mom. It's your fault.

It's cliche to say that everything I am is because of my mother. So I will say that so much of who I have been and who I will be is due to having the most amazing woman in my life forming who I am. She has never wanted me to be like her, although, I know sometimes she thought it would have been easier. She has fostered such an environment that allowed me to rebel while knowing that I was safe, loved and never alone. And I rebelled... a lot. But with every rebellion she gave me room to be my own person and not the one she expected me to be. She is the reason I never fell victim to peer pressure and made my own decisions. She made me confident. She is the reason I will be a great mother. She is the reason I do not need a man to support me but am grateful for the one I have. She is the reason I am a force to be reckoned with. She is all of these reasons.

And the best part is that she will deny all of this and say she's just doing what anyone mother would.

Never knowing how truly special she is is what makes her special.

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