It went something like this: Each night when my father pulled into the driveway, my mother would announce his arrival and declare that she would be the first to greet him when he walked through the door. Never one to back down from a challenge, I would race into the kitchen and wriggle my three-year-old self through the Julie-sized space between her legs in order to plant myself in front of her when my father appeared.
I got the first hug every time.
As proud I am of my undefeated record in this particular sport, you had to give credit to my mother for the way she handled every loss. While I gleefully recounted my victory to anyone who would listen, my poor mother had to contend herself with the consolation prize of putting my father’s Thermos in the sink and hanging up his coat. She didn’t seem to mind getting beat by a toddler and if I didn’t know any better, I would say she actually wanted me to win.
As if losing to me every night was not enough, mom also had a tendency of taking a backseat to my grandmother, especially after my grandfather died and grandma wasn’t as active as she used to be. Not long after I moved out, mom and dad got into the habit of taking my grandmother out to dinner with them every Friday night and every Friday night, my mother insisted on waiting in the car while Dad collected his mother at the door and saw her safely inside at the end of the evening. She sat across the table from the dynamic duo as the two of them chatted happily throughout the meal and more often than not, she was left to put on her own coat while my dad helped his mother with hers.
Yet, Mom harbored no resentment at her second place position in my father’s life. In fact, she told me many times she was proud that my dad and I had a close and loving relationship until the day he died. She delighted in the fact that although he was no longer a little boy, Dad was still the apple of his mother’s eye. By encouraging a strong bond between Dad and the “other women” in his life, mom believed it made her relationship with him even stronger and believe me, my father knew who the real winner was in his life and how without her, he would be nothing.
“I have always loved you…marrying you made my life complete. You are the best thing that ever happened to me and I have received everything from life than anyone should…because of you,” he wrote to her in 1987.
This month, as we honor the women who brought us into the world, let us not only recall the ways in which they “lost” so that we could win, but the selfless ways they put someone else’s needs ahead of their own and how so often they dimmed their own light in order to let someone else shine. Happy Mother’s Day!