As some of you know, I’m going on vacation with my Mom this week. I let her pick the place. It went down like this, via a series of emails:
Me: Let’s go on vacation. Plane tickets on me.
Mom: Hmmm. Do you have a passport?
Me: (getting very excited…Paris? London? Where would we go?) Whyyyyyy…
Mom: I was thinking the Bahamas.
Bahamas. Um. Ok. Ok. I can handle this. She went there in the 80s, when she was in her 20s, and I know she had a great time. She speaks of it often. So, as much as I hate the sun, the sand and natural bodies of water, I’m going. Gladly. We leave right after Mother’s Day, a date that I think is not mere coincidence.
My Mom is super fun. Some of you have met her and know this first hand. She’s HILARIOUS and always up for anything. We’ve traveled together a lot, done tons of road trips for family, but no vacations that haven’t come with responsibility and obligation. So, this trip should be a real vacation, full of laughs and exploring new sights, and, of course, cocktails. While this trip is purely for pleasure, it’s also important to me because it’s marking the first time in my life I feel like I’m going to be able to return at least a little bit of all that my Mom has given me. There’s obviously absolutely no dollar amount that could be placed on her endless love and support. But, it’s something.
Here’s why: Five years ago, I was an utter mess.
I was screwing up left and right. I couldn’t manage anything: my money, my job, my relationships, my life. It all sort of happened all at once, without warning. I mean, I’d always been kind of a drifting fuck-up and loose with my standards. I never had a job I was committed to or a place I loved being in. I was without roots, I was without conviction. I thought, anyway. Without going into details, after a number of crazy events, it all finally came down to a destructive crash. My Mom, without hesitation, without question, came to my rescue. After all I’d done and all the bad I’d been, she never, ever left me alone or stopped believing in me. She helped me get diagnosed, medicated, into therapy, and on with my life. She did everything short of moving in with me, which, admittedly, she wanted to do. It took quite some time, and I never made it easy for her, myself or anyone, but I eventually got back on track.
During the upswing, I was talking to my very good friend Jonathan, discussing my whole mental health thing and he asked me a question I’d never been able to pose to myself. He asked, “Have you ever really THANKED your Mother for all she’s done? I mean REALLY THANKED her.” I was quiet. The profundity of that simple question was not lost on me. But, I was stunned and probably even a little ashamed.
He went on. “She saved your life.” He was right. She had. She did.
Not long after that conversation, and while I was still trying to figure out an answer to that question, my Grandma died. My Mom was devastated. It traumatized my whole family. My Grandma was our matriarch, our glue, our hero and beacon and one of the reasons I worked so hard to get myself back together. I certainly couldn’t put her through anything more. She fought cancer for a really long time and, in the end, she was just tired. We had to let her go. The day of the viewing, everyone in the family was getting up and speaking. I knew I was going to get up, but hadn’t planned on what I was going to say. I suppose these things aren’t planned, but in those eight steps to the podium, I realized the most important thing I’ve ever realized and it has dictated everything I do, everywhere I go, every single day since.
I’d never witnessed in my life someone who loved their children more than my Grandma. Without her and without the relationship she had with my Mom, the relationship I have with my Mom would never have been possible. It is because my Grandma loved her children so much that my Mom loves us so much. I said I’d never witnessed someone loving their children more than my Grandma, because I didn’t know up until that day that I’d been witnessing it all my life. That my Mom loves us, loves me, without condition or expectation. Her love is non-negotiable. This is what parents mean when they say they want something better for their children. Sure, it’s a nicer home or a better education, but it’s also the capacity to love harder, stronger, with courage. That’s the true value parents pass along. That’s the true wealth children inherit.
I know I’m not quite there, yet. But, I see my sister and my brother and the inexhaustible love they exhibit in every facet of their own lives because of her. I know I’m a little stunted (I was always behind in the maturity thing, obviously) and have a ways to go, but I know I’ve still got a lot to learn from her. I’m lucky that, after all I’ve done and the devilish, irresponsible life I’ve led, she’s still willing to show me.
She not only gave me life, but she brought me back to life. And she never stops – she gives me life every single day. So, Mom wants to go to the Bahamas…I can’t be anything but in. Because, if she asked me to, I’d go to the darkest ends of the universe to make her happy. I owe her that, though she wouldn’t see it that way.
I am once again hopeful and looking forward.
Thanks, Mom. First Bahama Mama is on me.