It has been said that each individual’s life is its own book, and the chapters contained within tell the tales of different phases of that person’s life story.
There are times I have felt that my personal book was of the comic variety or something from the Stephen King collection, but, regardless, it would be one that contained some very high highs, some very low lows and some tales of personal failures and redemptions.
Probably just like the rest of you, but with more curse words and self-destructive behavior.
My daughter has been writing her own early chapters over these first 18 months of her life, and I find it compelling stuff. It details her insatiable appetite for closely examining each new thing she gets in her fingers, her battle with learning to walk upright (which has evolved into a breathless sprint) and, now, an exciting new chapter in which she employes the word “no” to everything said to her by her parents — often culminating in an Oscar-worthy performance of screams, cries and burying her face in her hands because of the atrocities we commit in telling her to stop turning off the dishwasher or trying to plug the dogs’ tails into the electrical outlets.
Whew. That was a long sentence. Let me get my wind back. Alright, let’s do this.
While sorting through what my personal book would look like at this point, I came to the not-so-surprising revelation that my mother would be a central figure throughout every chapter. She was a prominent character when I first made an appearance on page 1, nurtured and loved me when I was too young to fend for myself and changed many diapers that I can only assume were not of the pleasant variety — though she stubbornly put a stop to that when I turned 14 and...
But I digress.
She helped me to learn to walk, talk and read, and thoroughly beat my backside when I was fully deserving of a thorough backside-beating. She was there to celebrate my wins in life, offered a shoulder during my losses and served as an inspiration as she went back to college when I started school, eventually earned her teaching credentials and shared her gift of educating with countless young people over an honored career of service.
I was actually flipping through Facebook the other night on what was deemed, “Teacher Appreciation Day.” I won’t name who posted it because I don’t believe this person’s intent was to have it used in my column, but it was a previous student of my mother’s, and it was posted to her page for her Facebook friends to see. It goes to show what kind of person my mother is.
“I hope that some day my son will find a teacher who means as much to him as you meant to me. The love you had for teaching and for the ancient languages were evident in everything that you did during the four years that I took classes with you. I still picture you reading to us in Latin so we could hear how it was spoken, with your coffee cup in one hand and ‘The Aeneid’ in the other.”
My mother retired from the teaching profession many years ago, closing that particular chapter in her life’s book, but she has continued to keep in touch with many of her former pupils over the years, and has now morphed into a teaching role with her four grandchildren whenever given the chance. I can tell you that watching her read a book to my daughter this past Christmas gave me chills, and I could hear the joy in her voice with every word.
She still loves to teach, and she still likes to try to make an impact with young people. That is a gift.
My mom is now entering a new chapter in her life’s story, and it’s one that comes with a bit of a fight for her health. It’s her fight, and her business, so I won’t go into any details here, but it’s a fight worth fighting, and she appears up for the challenge. It’s also a new chapter in my life, as it’s my turn to play a nurturing character, and to offer her the same kind of love and support she has shown my way through every step of my life.
And I believe I’m up for the challenge. I should be, at least, as I was trained by the best.
I will celebrate Mother’s Day this year by taking my wife and daughter to brunch with some friends, and stealing away for some “alone time” to talk with my mother on the phone. Just like every year, I will be in competition with my sister to see who calls her first. And, just like every year, I will call her early to take advantage of the two-hour time-difference advantage I have on my sister.
Because, you know, I’m kind of a jerk.
But this year I will also be offering some encouragement and hope when I speak with my mom, instead of soliciting it from her. Hey, it’s a new chapter.