As a child, when I was sick and as my mom cared for me, she used to say that if she could take the sickness away, she would. She even wished she could be sick instead of me. I used to think that was so silly. Wishing to have someone else’s sickness instead of them having it was beyond absurd…that is, until I became a mom.
Now, I get it.
The day I became a mom, I knew what it felt like. When my newborn experienced any discomfort, I cradled him gently in my arms, swaying back and forth as I would look down at him just longing to have the ability to take away his distress. I volunteer! If only I could remove the pain from him and allow it to consume me. This mirrored the thoughts my mom described to me as a child. It took me entering motherhood to understand such love.
Do you remember family reunions, the kind at the park, under a pavilion where you’d find the most delicious pot-luck meal? You’d run into cousins you hadn’t seen since the previous reunion and take all the generational pictures. The ones where your grandparents would sit around and talk about the good ole days. The kind where you dreaded going but ended up having a good time. My parents picked up on my ungrateful attitude and encouraged me to enjoy these moments reminding me that one day they’d be just a memory. I rolled my eyes because as a pre-teen the years moved slowly and I thought I’d always be riding in the backseat of my parents’ car going somewhere I did not want to go.
Now, I get it.
I haven’t been to a family reunion in almost ten years. Some of those misses were by choice, but now I’m not even sure they happen anymore. Not taking my children to family reunions to meet other family members, enjoying the delish side dishes and not having those generational pictures, cuts deeper than I thought it would. My parents were right: these are memories now. It took me not having these reunions to appreciate the impressions they left on my life.
One day, my dad asked me what kind of car I wanted for my 16th birthday. I was not too picky as I expressed not having a preference besides the following two things: a red car or a two-door car. Not long following our conversation, we went for a drive and my dad told me he had bought a car. Of course, I was so excited to see my new (to me) car! We pulled up to a Chevy Cavalier. A bright red, two-door Chevy Cavalier. My heart sank. Perhaps he misunderstood what I had said. I was still so excited and drove the car for the next three years until I took out a loan to buy an SUV. I remember him trying to advise against it, but I could get the loan, I could make the payments, and I wanted out of the red, two-door car.
Now, I get it.
In fact, I got it not even a year into driving the SUV. I’d meet my old car on the road and somewhat long for it when I was visiting my hometown. I was paying monthly for an SUV I did not need, when I had a perfectly good paid-for car. I did not appreciate my first car until I did not have it anymore. My dad was right, but it took me learning this lesson the hard way.
Growing up as a teenager, my mom would talk about her mom a lot. I never met my maternal grandma since she passed away when my mom was a teenager. At birthday parties, graduations, and other events, my mom would sometimes (not as often as she was thinking it) make a comment about how she wished her mom could be there to share the moment. My mom suffered such pain from losing her mom so early in life, a pain she prayed I would never have to endure. I brushed it off. I never had the actual thought, but I suppose subconsciously I believed my mom would live forever. That was until my mom died.
Now, I get it.
The day I lost my mom, I understood the loss she lived with. As life moves on, I understand how every big moment feels like something, or someone, is missing. I now know how often my mom thought about her own mom and how my mom silently longed for her mom’s presence. This imitated the emotions my mom lived with. It took me losing someone so precious to understand such heartbreak.
I’m not sure if it’s the getting older part of life or if it’s the experiences that have opened my eyes to see the importance of all these things, plus many more. They were once so irrelevant and unimportant. There’s a new appreciation that accompanies experiences. I wish that growing up I had more gratitude, and now often consider my children and how to help them better understand the significance of life’s moments.