Twenty four hours that we set aside so that people all across the country can visibly remember that all of us have one thing in common (so far). We all had a mother. The custom is to show her on this one day how special she was to us by bringing them cards, flowers, special dinners, balloons, gifts and so on.
It seems like a rather poor exchange.
A few minutes out of our busy days to pay homage to the one person who not only gave us life but possibly was one of the few people who ever really believed we had any value. She saw us through the scrapes and bruises of our youth. She held our hands when we found out we couldn’t fly and people are often mean and sometimes cruel. She took the pictures of us as we prepared for our first date and she worried without ceasing as she waited for us to come home that night in one piece.
Mom was always there for me. I know that many people who read this will not be able to say that. Some Mom’s did not stick around in their lives or maybe just had too many issues of their own to care. But not my Mom. She was always there.
Through a childhood of growing pains, joys and sadness she provided one of the most consistent touchstones of guidance anyone could have asked for. I was blessed because my Mom did not always tell me what to do, but she let me discover how to do things and find out that there were consequences for bad choices. She did all that without judging my journey or my failures. She was just always there.
When I decided that the world of McKeesport Pennsylvania was too small for my goals or imagination, she sadly let go of my hand at the airport as I boarded the plane to Boot Camp. She was not much of a writer (that was my Dad’s job) but she did send me a few notes from time to time. I wish I would have kept them. She watched me march in that uniformed spectacle called Boot Camp Graduation in my white uniform. I could see the pride in her eyes.
She saw me struggle with letting go of my old life and sometimes making a mess of the new one I had chosen. But like she had always done, she was there for me to let me know that I was still her son and she had faith in me. I stumbled more than once. She never did.
Over the many decades to come, we would both grow. I conquered my fears and started winning more than losing. I gave her a miniature set of silver dolphins when I flew home from the mission when I qualified. Later she would get a Chief’s anchor and the Officer’s crest that she knew I would earn. She was there for every single victory and despite her contributions, she never took any credit.
I met a girl that met the qualifications I had always sought. On the day I met her, I had jokingly told Mom that if I met a blonde haired blued eyed girl that laughed as easily as she did, I would marry her. We met later that afternoon on a plane ride in a random series of coincidences. I am so proud to say that the girl who became my wife is best friends with my Mom to this day. Our trips together as a trio remain some of my best life memories.
Through all the years and all the travel, we have always gone home to see her. When Dad died, we became even closer. Maybe it is because I have become more like him as I have aged. Maybe she just liked the man I became.
Now she is at an age where things are so much more challenging. All things come to this point. I struggle to see her slowly fade away. Someday, I know I will have to say goodbye to her and I already feel the emptiness. When we lost Dad, I was surrounded by people. Yet I never felt more alone in my life. But she was there. She stayed strong through it all and helped my heart to heal. I am truthfully not sure what that day will bring but my fears of that day exceed all of the combined days of operating in submarines in the furthest reaches of the ocean.
For today, I will simply say Happy Mother’s day.
I say it without saying the words nearly every night when we talk by phone. I say it every time we sing together on Tuesday afternoons at her new residence. I say it every time I touch her face and hold her hand. I feel incredibly sorry for anyone who has had the chance to do so but for whatever reason in the world has chosen not to.
She tries not to show it, but every day that passes that she does not hear from them adds to her sadness. I have already promised myself to take her example to heart and not rebuke them for all the Mother’s days (and every other day for years) they just didn’t give a damn enough to show up once in a while.
I pray for the day she gains her eternal reward and I know it will be a glorious day. She will be able to sing and dance again. Her words won’t be so hard to understand and she will be able to walk with no help. She will see her own parents and the people in her life who went before her. She will see Jesus face to face and He will be smiling as He welcomes her home. I know she will be with Him because she has already been an angel in this world. Now she will just add wings. She has already earned them.
Love, your son Bob.