After I blew through Meeting House Deli to grab a coffee, I quickly programmed the numbers I needed to call while I drove on the LIE. The only reason I upgraded to iPhone5 was for Siri. She and I are on a first-name basis.
Hands-free, I started making calls as I drove to the MacArthur Airport. I was so glad that it wasn’t JFK or I would not have made it in time. For the first time in over 20 years, my mom and I are spending Mother’s Day together. She flew in from Florida on Friday to spend the weekend with me until Monday when I take her to the ferry to Connecticut, where she will meet her 24th great-grandchild and join family and friends to celebrate his baptism. If that wasn’t cool enough, Mom is just three months away from turning 90 years old. Time flies, even at 89.
I got to the airport a few minutes later than I wanted to, but in time to greet passengers from the Fort Lauderdale flight at the baggage claim. I looked for my mom, to no avail. For a fleeting moment, I thought my barely on time nature would be revealed and I might find her waiting at the meet and greet area, just outside the security checkpoints. When I rounded that corner I was a little concerned. After checking the ladies room, I headed back towards the baggage claim area. Of course, I had tried her cell phone. But she never turns it on. As I rounded the corner, I heard her voice call my name from behind me. The attendant had taken her out another way.
“You were right,“ Mom said to the attendant, “This is my daughter. I just didn’t recognize her with that blonde hair.” I am my own colorist, and I always lose track of time, so I have no idea what hue she last saw in my hair.
We picked up her luggage and thanked the attendant as I walked her out to my car. As we loaded into the car, Mom chatted about the flight and the cute baby who screamed the whole way. As the mother of eight children who loves babies, my mother is definitely a new mom’s best friend on a plane. Then as we started the drive home, Mom exclaimed, “Honey, you look fantastic. When we were looking for you — (busted) — I saw this beautiful, classy woman with blonde hair and heels and I didn’t recognize it was you.” Considering I only slept for five hours, didn’t shower and put my make up on in the car (hands-free of course), I guessed I pulled this off pretty well. Nothing like a mother’s view of her kid to boost your self esteem.
My mom and I only see each other once or twice a year. But I have a cup of coffee with her every Saturday morning, out on the porch, when the weather is good. We catch up on the week and solve the problems of the world, all in 45 minutes on the phone.
I’ve learned a lot of lessons from Mom over the years. As the mother of eight, with 20 grandchildren, 24 great–grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild, my mom has a lot of life experience to share. She does it quietly and thoughtfully – lesson number one that I have yet to learn.
From a very young age, my mother taught me that God provides and every human life is a welcome gift from God. Whether we were talking about babies in the womb, visiting my dad’s parents in the nursing home or simply making room for another friend at Sunday dinner, every human life was valuable and welcome in our home.
When it came to advice on marriage, sex, birth and death, one sentence covered them all; “It’s the most natural and beautiful thing in the world,” Mom mused.
While I used to be amused by her one-size-fits-all description of these phases of life, I have learned that Mom is right. There is a natural time and season for every life passage and they all possess their own beauty.
She reminds me to pause and notice others when she says, “I like to watch people and wonder what their lives are like”- and to dream for more; “When you go into a new church, make three wishes.”
Mom reminds me that suffering probably won’t last for too long when she shares, “God only gives you as much as you can handle.” But then she qualifies it with me as she quips, “Eileen, the Lord must think a lot of you.”
One of the greatest gifts my mother gave me is the sense of identity and purpose she imparted on me from my earliest memory. Recounting my birth my mother recalls,
“You were the only one of my eight children that I did not see be born.
The cord was wrapped around your neck and you almost died. I knew when I finally held you that God had saved you for a reason and that He has a special plan for your life.”
Discovering that plan has been the hidden passion of my life. I passed this inheritance of purpose onto my children as I gave each one of them the scripture that the Lord inspired me to pray for them from the womb.
My mom has also has been a living witness of this scripture spoken by the prophet Simeon to Mary, the mother of Jesus; “A sword shall pierce your own heart so that the inner thoughts of many may be laid bare”(Luke 2:35).
Mom taught me how to live with these sorrows of the heart as I watched her suffer the loss of her daughter who was killed by a drunk driver. She taught me what strength and commitment means as she supported my dad through cancer and then buried the love of her life after 63 years of marriage.
Now, ironically or providentially, my mom and I share a common bond of wisdom in sorrow. As I care for my disabled daughter, Mom attends to her daughter, my older sister, who is disabled with Parkinson’s and advanced dementia.
In all these things, mother to daughter and daughter to mother, we remind ourselves of my grandmother’s wisdom. Nanny always said with her Irish brogue: “God is good.”
From birth to death and beyond the grave, mothers’ wisdom prevails. God is good and so is Mom.
Eileen Benthal is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a B.A. in Theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at FreeIndeedFreelance.com.