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Joseph: The heart knows

Posted: May 7, 2015 4:55 p.m.
Updated: May 8, 2015 1:00 a.m.

I’ve been a parent for just shy of 21 years. I only blinked once, OK, maybe twice in that time, but still proceeded to fast-forward 20 years and at breakneck speed. I never can find that pesky “pause” button and, believe me, I’ve tried.

My two older sons, both in college, can finally admit they are beginning to understand the restless feeling of “time flying by.” They both recognize this sentiment best in the image of their youngest siblings, 11-year-old twins, leaving elementary school, and on the way to middle. They’ve expressed disbelief of how this milestone could actually be happening and so fast. Moments like these compel me to hold true the fact my sons are starting to appreciate what it’s like to be a parent. Wow. Did I really just say that? How many times have I thought over the years, “Wait until you’re a dad (or mom) then you’ll get it.” Perhaps they are finally realizing the often difficult but fulfilling job of parenting. 

This brings me to Mother’s Day and a day when our children try (and usually succeed) to pull out all the stops to make us (mothers) feel special and loved and appreciated. The day may include breakfast in bed, handmade cards, flowers, gifts. It’s funny how some things never change from one generation to the next. While all of these tokens of affection are heart-felt and welcomed, as a mom, I think it’s safe to say what we really want but are reluctant to profess is to do the things we don’t get to do. Mothers deserve to be appreciated for all they do, without having to “do.”

I can still hear my mother saying she wanted lots of hugs, cards made by hand, and simply a day off … from cooking, cleaning, disciplining, carpooling, doing the laundry. I’ll only speak for myself as a mother, but feel sure many moms share my mindset. I’ve finally reached a point in my career as a parent where I can make some honest assertions. I am not a perfect mom, now or any time in the future. I know I work hard to be the best I can for my children, no one else’s. When I fail, and I do, I try again until I get it as close as I can to right. I could be more organized and timely. I could work on lowering my voice at times, and raising it at others.

We mothers are hardest on ourselves. I realize my children don’t like me all the time, but I do believe they love me every day. Our house is not always calm and quiet, but is warm and inviting. It’s our home and it’s a place my children want to be (most of the time). I’ve yelled. They’ve yelled. Maybe a few four-letter words have been used … but of course, only one or two. Apologies have been rendered. Tears have been shed. Laughter is heard every day. I’ve punished. I’ve cried all alone in my car. I’ve waited up. I’ve waited in the doctor’s office and emergency rooms. I’ve waited by the back door at 1 a.m. praying I would see headlights in the driveway soon. But years from now, I hope my children will know that in all my imperfections, I absolutely tried my best, worked my hardest, and loved them with all my might. I am extraordinarily grateful for all five of my children. I know how lucky I am; how loved I am. 

This weekend, I will celebrate my life as a mother and my life as a daughter. I will celebrate the memories of the unconditional way my mother loved and cared for me. Alzheimer’s Disease has taken her memories one by one. It has robbed her of speech and her ability to walk. But the disease’s quality of timelessness sometimes bestows a blessing and I received one on my last visit with my mom just 10 days ago.

I arrived to see her about 20 minutes after the rest of my family. They informed me my mother had been very agitated and distant and for me not to expect much from her today. But in this sad and awful disease, I truly believe what the mind can’t remember, the heart will feel. And that is exactly what I got. As I leaned in to tell my mom “hello,” she reached for me with her arms, grabbed my face, kissed my forehead, and told me she loved me. My family was stunned. The heart knows.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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