Back when I was a kid, if I had so much as a minor case of the sniffles, my dad would be all over me. He’d ply me with sweet treats and TLC, the slightly rough brand that only a father could give. I appreciated his concern while generally refusing the treats (a miracle, yes, but strep throat, my most common childhood ailment after the splitting headache, didn’t exactly expand my appetite).
In fact, one of my most memorable father-son moments also was the last time I can remember ever being sick around him. I had some kind of 24-hour bug, and I was so weak that he had to practically carry me to the bathroom. As I stood over the toilet, my feet suddenly gave out. I was fainting! Dad, though, was right behind me, ready to catch me. I probably don’t give him enough credit today for being such a good caretaker to his sick kid, possibly because at the time, I always wanted my mommy.
Not that she wasn’t around. She was. But she was always the sensible one, close by but never hovering. She took my temperature, took me to the doctor whenever it went anywhere above 102, never yelled when I threw up everywhere but inside the toilet, and she made me chicken soup. An apple tart never cured any sick child! No, she didn’t coddle me the way dad did, yet somehow I always felt safer when she entered the room, like nothing could possibly happen to me with mom around.
All these years later, I’m surprised that I still feel the same way. It’s been exactly six years since I’ve been so sick that I couldn’t get out of bed (a nasty case of mono to mark my final weeks in New York City), and I’m pretty sure I thought of my mother most of the time. For reasons too complex to go into here, she and I weren’t on the best of terms, but that wasn’t the only reason she was on my mind. I was sick. Who else would I be thinking of?
She once again dominated my thoughts six months later when I was attacked and robbed by three men in my apartment in Buenos Aires. She never condoned fighting, but she’s the reason why I opted to take them on. One against three was a pointless battle indeed. Even in my dazed and confused, adrenaline-fueled state, I knew that. Still, for her sake as much as for mine, I wasn’t going to go out like that.
And once again, there was mom, this past weekend at the tail end of one of my worst weeks ever. She called me on Skype, Saturday morning Atlanta time, Saturday evening Bangkok time. I filled her in on some of the news of the week from hell. She offered words of encouragement and a few pearls of wisdom. Among them: Go out and enjoy life. Focus on other things. When you’re thinking about something else, that’s when what you want to happen will happen.
It’s almost like she knew that a surprise email from my ex was waiting for me in my Facebook mailbox! She also reminded me that like her, I’m a Taurus, stubborn as the bull that is our sign. “We don’t give up,” she said.
Coming from anyone else, that may have gone in one ear and out the other the way the song “High Hopes” and the children’s story “The Little Engine That Could” always did whenever I heard them. Coming from Mom, however, it’s exactly what I needed to hear. “Don’t give up,” she reiterated at the end of the conversation. I’m well past the age where I have to listen to my mother, but I knew that I would.
I don’t know how she does it, but I’m glad that after all these years, she still does.
A song that always makes me think of mom…
Lenny Kravitz “Always on the Run”