Kimchi Mamas and Rice Daddies are doing a contest for the funniest story about your father or mother respectively. Just doing the exercise caused me to think about the stories I carry about my parents.
It was easy to think of funny stories about my Dad. He’s absent-minded, blunt and has a witty sense of humor. All three contribute to great faux pas stories. It’s much harder to think of funny stories involving my Mom. It’s not so much that she’s dead. I don’t have any qualms about ‘speaking ill of the dead’. I’d rather remember her as she was: full of worries, anxious about money and whimsically graceful in speech and carriage. The problem is she didn’t have a sense of humor. Life was too painful and too real for her to laugh much. You want sincere? Moving? Deep? I gotcha covered. You want cute anecdotes? Hmmm….
Once during college I called home and Dad answered. After ten minutes of verbal tennis rallies, Mom got on the line. She sighed, “As I listened to the two of you I realized I’m jealous. It’s rare I make your father laugh like that. I’m glad you share that together but I realized I feel left out.” We went on from there to just talk about life. Her comment wasn’t prelude to a discussion, just Mom sharing an emotion as it happened.
I’m profoundly grateful that by example and by her gently probing questions she made it ok to feel what I was feeling, to name it, and to move on with my life. I never had to pretend to feel something I wasn’t. If I was uncomfortable with someone I just met, she said, “That’s ok. It’s important to trust your intuition.” When I brought friends home, she’d say, “I like your friends. You have good sense and it shows in the people you choose to care about.” Months after two of my close male friends in college initiated the ‘wanna date?’ conversation and were rebuffed, she asked, “Have you mourned the loss of those friendships? Just because you never dated doesn’t mean there’s nothing to grieve.” I can list many more examples where she’d ask THE pivotal question that shaped how I thought about a season of my life.
I started this post with no idea what to write about and these memories are catching me by surprise even as I write them. I think it’s cause Dad was just here. As much as I love him, there’s a real sense that when Mom died, I lost both my parents. She was the one who reminded him how to act, nagged him, and brought out his thoughtful side. Without her life with Dad feels like a frenzy of activity occasionally punctuated by an emotional moment. With Mom around life was saturated with meaning, questions, insights and emotion. I’m so sad that in some of my resistance to the frenzy and frustration at not having the Mom side of the equation I’ve also lost the freedom to laugh with my Dad the way we used to.
I miss my parents.