I can’t imagine a street that offers more gifts per square inch and the perfect place to find a Mother’s Day gift, than Broadway in Saratoga Springs, NY. I walked in and out of every shop leaving incredible goodies behind. But deep down I knew that this was a waste of time; what she really needed was not going to be found here. My mom wants time – undivided, one-on-one time, with her sons. No credit card swipe will do the job. I kept walking down the road wondering why time has been especially hard for me to give to my Mom.
Although my mom and I have a friendship that many would envy, it can also be filled with judgment, anxiety and maddening predictability. Being with Mom is inspiring, funny and sweet, but it’s work.
Why work? Because as Mom gets older, she becomes more set in her ways and this requires a practice of total acceptance. In theory, no different than what I should be doing for anyone else in my life, but those that you feel responsible for can sometimes be the most challenging to fully accept. There’s too much at stake.
The ability to give my time freely disappeared into my growing family. The more my time is divided between my people, the more compressed and scheduled it becomes. There is little time for long spontaneous phone chats with Mom, or anyone else. Mid-day phone calls — during work–get pushed to the evening and evening calls get moved to the weekend and even for those, it gets harder to find the time.
My mom’s life is not easy. She lost her family in the Holocaust at an early age, she lost her husband way too soon, she survived breast cancer and she is witnessing her younger son deal with Parkinson’s. Not to mention the work and financial challenges that keep peace a distance dream. Even though she evolved to be as tough as tempered steel, she still needed someone to lean on. And that someone became me.
With time our roles reversed. I began to pour emotional and business support into the void my father left behind and in the process I traded being a son for being her coach & parent. A role that never felt natural, but maybe it’s an inevitable part of the cycle of life.
Recently I ran into a gay man of color that came out to his dad at the tender age of fifteen. His brilliant father took him to a bookstore and together they read about what being gay is all about. He told me “My family loved me, so nothing could hurt me outside my home. I became invincible and safe.”
I realized that since the beginning of time my mother has also been giving me that kind of boundless love and I too became invincible and filled with enough life force to give some back. If done right, maybe paying-it-forward is also an inevitable part of the cycle of life. And Mom did it right!
It’s been a long time coming, but maybe for this Mother’s Day I should find the time to be a son again and let my mother do what she does best. Be my mom.