A few years ago, my mom came down to help Stephanie get some things cleaned and organized around the house. I was not there to meet her when she arrived because I had to teach that night. When I did get home, Stephanie met me at the door. “Your mom has not stopped moving since she got here two hours ago!”
I heard the sound of clanging dishes coming from the kitchen. “Yeah…? Didn’t you say you wanted her to help?”
“Yes. It’s just. … This is kind of overwhelming!”
I am not sure what I said after that, except that maybe I was a bit confused. I mean, this is what my mom did, and this is what Stephanie was asking for. Right?
That ended up being a very good week for Stephanie. It was the first time that she and my mom had really spent an extended period of time together. Stephanie needs to connect with people on an emotional level, and being around my mom helped her connect in the way that works best for her. She has had more conversations since then. The other night she said to me, “The more I get to know your mom, the better I understand you.”
Normally for Mother’s Day, I try to share some kind of memory of my mom, and then I write about what that meant to me, or how it shaped me. I am having a hard time with that this year because there are just so many memories. When I think back to my past, every memory of my mom seems more significant than it did the year before. The reason is that this year I have begun to understand just how much of my mother ended up in me. I am a lot like her. The best parts of me come from mom.
Stephanie is what you might call an “affective” type of person. For her, establishing an overt emotional connection with a person needs to go hand-in-hand with interacting and working with that person. For my mother, and I think for me, the emotional connection is why we show up in the first place. The thing that we do, and the way that we do it, is how we expect the other person to know that we care. We might say nice words to a person, but ultimately what matters is what you do for them. That is why my mom went straight from her car to the dishes. Who cares that she had just driven for 5-6 hours? My mom could say, “I love you,” and she does, but she prefers to show it. When we asked for her help, she was there.
Not long ago I mentioned to someone how I was “scurrying around,” helping with a particular event. She replied, “But I think you like to scurry.” At the time, I thought that was a peculiar thing to say. Now I understand better why somebody might think that. I mean, it makes sense, right? I would only scurry if I enjoyed scurrying. The person who said this was more of an “affective” type as well. She was seeing me the same way Steph first saw my mom. We just have to move. We just cannot sit still, etc.
But that’s not it. I do not like to scurry anymore than my mom likes to do dishes. It is not the thing that we like; it is the people. I have a reputation for scurrying at work too. I run a lot of places, literally. If someone has a problem, and they need me to solve it, then why would I mosey? Shouldn’t I drop whatever mattered less and be there to help the person who needed me? That is what you do if you care, isn’t it?
At least, that is what I learned from my mom. I am not sure how much of this is genetics and how much of it is upbringing, probably a bit of both, but my mother’s work ethic has always been something I admire. It is not just that she works hard. It is why she works hard, and it is the way she does it. I almost said that I was “astounded” by her work ethic, but you cannot really be astounded by what is normal. Mom throws herself into whatever needs to be done, even if it is something hard or unpleasant. My mom recently retired from a civilian job with the military, so I have heard her complain plenty about bosses and bureaucrats, but I am struggling to recall a time when my mom has complained about helping someone who needed her. In this aspect, I am not as much like my mom as I want to be. I am trying, but I have a lot to learn. Hopefully I can get there someday.