A few nights ago, I walked into my building after a long day at work. My doorman, Fred, greeted me, as he always does, and I started to walk toward the elevators, as I always do. But this time he stopped me.
“Hey, how’s your mom?” he asked.
I smiled. Fred has only met my mom in passing when she has helped me bring things up to my apartment or come over to help me decide how I should decorate, but she is the kind of person that stands out to anyone who comes in contact with her – in the best way possible.
As I sit here trying to put onto paper how much my mom means to me, I am at a loss for words. All I know is that it is entirely possible for the funniest and wittiest person you know to be the strongest, most giving, caring, and accommodating person you’ve encountered as well. Over the years, I have said that my mom is our family’s superwoman, and anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting her, interacting with her, and getting to know her would agree with me.
I rarely write about this, but when I was 10, I experienced the worst day of my life. My grandfather picked me up from a slumber party and drove me home. There was an ambulance outside. I was confused; everyone in my family, besides me, was healthy. I didn’t see any sign of a fire or of a break-in. When I walked through my front door, I was immediately engulfed in the biggest hug my mother had ever given me. Something had happened to my dad, she said. I vividly remember thinking that he must have broken his leg or something like that, but as I looked around the entryway to see family and friends in hysterics and listened to the words that came out of my mother’s mouth, I knew this was not the case. My tall, strong, healthy dad had unexpectedly died in his sleep the night before.
I began to sob with confusion as the pain overcame my body. I closed and collapsed into our big purple chair in the living room. When I looked up, my mom was there, holding me and supporting me. Today, 14 years later, I know that whenever I am in a time of need, she will be there, a source of comfort, sanity and hope.
To be fair, my mom was always an amazing role model who was there for me and our family, but that horrific day was a turning point. Her life, my life, and my brother’s life could have easily fallen apart after that fall morning, but it didn’t. Instead of pulling her covers over her head each morning after and falling into a crippling state of sadness, my mom remained stronger than I could have ever imagined.
There were so many things that my dad handled for the family that my mother hadn’t had to deal with before. She threw herself into these things and became an expert at them. Beyond raising two children, she started paying the bills, managing a financial portfolio, and making an infinite amount of large life decisions on her own, all while still grieving over the loss of my dad and coping with this void in her life.
I interviewed my mom during my senior year of college for a profile piece. During our interview, she told me that she often used to reach for the phone to share something about my brother or me, or to ask my dad something mundane, like the name of something. She told me that it was these everyday things that she shared with someone that she loved for 16 years that she missed the most. I remember listening to her tell me this as I sat in my Washington D.C. apartment, miles away, as tears rolled down my cheeks, feeling heartbroken.
In that moment, I also remembered that as a developing person, I rarely felt that sense of brokenness. Even through tragedy, my mom made sure we never felt as though she was damaged beyond return or that our lives were hopeless, and that’s because we were not. We were always moving ahead as a cohesive unit. This isn’t to say that we haven’t had our fair share of ups and downs, but even through the worst moments in time, I always knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel. For what felt like months after my dad’s death, my brother and I would pile into her bed at night and fall asleep next to her and I knew that somehow, someday, things would be okay.
The truth is, things really are okay. None of us would have chosen for our lives to take this path, but we have dealt with the cards we were dealt, and I can only attribute this to my mom’s strength, determination and huge heart. As I will say time and time again because I can never be too redundant, my mom has been amazing through the simplest setbacks and hardest challenges.
In that interview, I also remember my mom telling me that she thinks of my brother and me as her peers because we all grew up together. When my dad passed away, I was only 10, and my brother, Brian, was only six. There was (and still is) a lot of work to be done in terms of our personal growth, development, and whatnot, and my mom was (and still is) the guiding force leading us in a positive direction.
Although anyone who has come in contact with Brian and me knows that we are quite entertaining (mostly Brian, but hey, I try), we were very rarely easy to handle. Still, my mom never made it feel as though we were too much of a handful or a nuisance, even though I am sure at times we were. From health problems and arguments to more stressors than the average pair of siblings, my mom was (and still is) always able to help us with our problems, lead us to the best solution possible, and remain calmer than most people would be in any given situation.
My mom will also do anything and everything for her friends. My friends and my brother’s friends absolutely love her; she makes them laugh infectiously and makes our house feel like a home to many. She is a wonderful daughter to my nana and demonstrates that best friendship between mother and daughter can thrive at any stage in life. Her relationships with my dad’s family members remain strong, and I am thankful that even with that large void in my life, she has kept not only our immediate family together as a strong unit, but also our extended family as well.
I sometimes give her a hard time for not being calm, and I may tweet the absurd things she says, but the truth is, my mom is always the person who is there for me. She’s the one that I can call when I know I need an emergency root canal at 1:45 in the morning and I don’t know what to do (and for the record, when I did this, she drove to the city to pick me up in the middle of the night and ensure that I was alright), and she’s always my first call after I have had a horrible day and need someone to listen to my woes without judgment. She’s the first person my brother calls when a teacher is treating him unfairly, or when he’s battling a moral dilemma of any kind, or even if he has a funny story to share.
She once told me that she thinks she is a damn good mother and halfway decent father. Honestly, she is much more than “halfway decent.” She is my rock, one of my best friends, and truly the greatest person I know.
This Mother’s Day falls on my 24th birthday. I know you aren’t supposed to reveal your birthday wish, but all I wish for is that my mom knows how much she is appreciated, how much we love her, and how thankful I am for the incredible life that she has given me. Although I could’ve written this post in my typical satirical fashion without bringing up some of the hardships we’ve gone through, I know that divulging our family’s story makes it that much more meaningful.
This is my first Oy!Chicago post that my mom hasn’t had the pleasure (or forced burden) of reading and editing beforehand, and that is because I wanted to surprise her. So mom, I hope you are surprised. I am glad I can reflect on what you have overcome and how proud Brian and I are of you each day. I love you with all of my heart and thank you for being the most wonderful person I know, and the wittiest superhero out there. Happy Mother’s Day!
For more posts in the “I Love You Too, Mom” series, go here.