Aprons, flowers and pearls. A story for another day.

Mom with ThreeHe looked me in the eyes with a disappointment that I hadn’t seen before and said, “You’re breaking your mother’s heart.” 

There was strength in his voice and a glistening dampness in his eyes when he spoke. He didn’t need to say more. Those five words, spoken by my dad in the living room of the home where I was raised, landed on my ears with a force that he couldn’t have imagined. A message that took only seconds deliver has stuck with me, unforgotten, for nearly forty years. His message was clear. He was reminding me that my mom – the love of his life – was the person on this earth that he cherished the most. The woman he had spent a lifetime with. The person that he protected from all forms of pain… even if it required the toughest of conversations with his only son. And he was right. My mom was an angel. His angel.

I was 25 and after three years of marriage had just celebrated becoming a father for the first time. I was so proud. I’d watched my parents raise their five children (especially my little sisters) and love their grandchildren for years. My mom’s home was always open and the love for her family was genuine and immense. There was never a hesitation about being involved and helping as each grandchild was welcomed into the growing family. It was the way it had always been. Until then.

Mom - Sassy FunMy mom’s heart was deteriorating and there was nothing that could be done. As I recall, the doctors were just learning about the possible benefits of an artificial heart. The surgeries that are performed routinely today would have easily saved her life. They weren’t even an option in 1978. I remember mom telling me that she would be going out of this world with the same heart God gave her on the way in. A new heart wasn’t part of her plan. She went to take her place in Heaven less than two months after Ryan was born. She was just 57.

The circumstances of my dad’s message involved two moms – one was his wife and the other was mine. His had been a mother for more than 35 years. Mine for less than two months. The difference in experience was huge. As a young first-time mom, my wife was protective, cautious, and reluctant to expose Ryan to the hugs, kisses, and possible germs that come with a grandparents visit. I remember the stress that was in the air when my mom came to our home – just wanting to love her grandson. I learned that how a new mom involves her own mother is very different from the way she includes her mother-in-law. And it hurt. Others – the people I cared so much about – felt the hurt too. I was in a vice being squeezed by two moms. One who raised me and one who gave birth to my son.

I don’t recall the date it happened – sometime between April 16th (Ryan’s birthday) and June 11th (Mom’s passing) – but clearly it was close to Mother’s Day. The reason has been forgotten but the outcome remains crystal clear. After arguing unsuccessfully with my wife, I went to my parents’ home alone when they were expecting a visit from all three of us. Their disappointment that Ryan wasn’t with me unfolded instantly in front of me. My mom cried while I tried to help her understand. My dad looked into my eyes with disappointment and said, “You’re breaking your mother’s heart.”

This isn’t the Mother’s Day memory that I sat down to write this morning. I had planned to write of the aprons, flowers, and pearls that border the many wonderful memories of my childhood with mom. Those memories are all there and can be recorded on another day. I loved my mom more than I even knew. I’ve wiped away more than a few tears, today and along the way, when thinking about that moment of disappointment that was never really resolved.

It’s hard for a son and husband to serve the needs of two moms. The two women that love him and that he loves.

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  • Wifey
    May. 15, 2014
    Awesome article as usual. If anything, these past two years have made me realize just how precious our time here on earth really is....It is something I will never take for granted again.. Keep walking and writing....

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  • Your Name
    May. 11, 2014
    Life and love are complicated. While good memories are important to share, it is also important to share the not-so-good ones, as we all live with them, and when shared hopefully we can learn from them.
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    May. 10, 2014
    Rod, This story is repeated in many families. It's always such a loss for all when this happens. Thanks for sharing something that was so difficult. P.

The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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