Although Mom passed away 8 years ago from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, a belated appreciation of her has slowly blossomed, especially in the past couple of years. At random moments, I’ve experienced an unmistakable yearning to hug her tenderly and voice my gratitude one more time. In earlier years, I sometimes seemed to lack the ability to show my appreciation in a way that she could relate.
She was born in a time of little. As a child, farm work was the only extra-curricular activity she experienced outside of school. On the other hand, while I was growing up as the only child still at home, it was quite the opposite. Mom did everything in her power to offer me as many experiences and opportunities as possible in our small town. At various times during childhood, not only was I involved with Scouts and 4-H, but Scottish and Hawaiian dance lessons, as well as music lessons, including piano, clarinet, voice, and organ. I’m quite sure I didn’t appreciate the opportunities presented as well as I might have. In fact, it’s probable I took them for granted. Not only that, but I was terrible at practicing my dance and music lessons.
As a teen, we were often at loggerheads, as I struggled to grow up and establish my own sense of self in an ever-changing world. Sometimes, in frustration, she’d shout, “No one appreciates all that I do.” I did my teen-age best to appreciate her, but I have a hunch my actions may have fallen short. The years passed, I married and had a family of my own.
Mom was always there for my family and me. If Mom could say, “yes” to a request, she did, even when “yes” meant taking care of my 3 children for 2 weeks when my husband and I had an opportunity to travel to Europe for my husband’s business. It couldn’t have been easy to step into the role of “Mom” for 3 children when you’re in your 70’s and not at all used to the hustle and bustle of a busy family. Now that I’m a grandmother myself, I can see this more clearly.
While I told her many times over the years, “I appreciate you and all that you do,” I’m not sure my words touched her to the degree that I’d hoped. I’m not even sure I fully grasped the depth and true meaning of that word “appreciation.” Then there were my misguided attempts to demonstrate appreciation, which fell flat or actually irritated her. Attempts that she had trouble accepting. After that trip abroad, along with my verbal and written thanks, I sent her flowers in appreciation. She chastised me for “wasting” money on something that would “just die.” We were residing on different planets. I was genuinely grateful and I believed flowers were a socially acceptable way of saying thank you. At the time, I scratched my head in consternation, but I now recognize that for someone who grew up during the depression, the gesture may have appeared frivolous.
Could I find the right words today, if I were given another chance to voice the depth of my gratitude for her sacrifices and unconditional love? Is it possible I now have a richer and deeper understanding of that word “appreciation?” Would she nod at me, sensing I’d at last developed a knowingness that was lacking in my younger self? Seems I had to travel further along life’s journey for that understanding, that wisdom, which evolves from living. It may simply be quite difficult or perhaps impossible to appreciate fully from the front end of life.