Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Counting My Blessings

"If everyone else were jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you too?" -- My Mother.

There is no way around it: I am the product of a superlative mother. She was demonstrative during my childhood, mainly in how she worked her ass off to provide for our family. She started out stressing early literacy and potty training, and was pretty hands-off beyond that. She is the antithesis of overbearing. Rather, she cultivated in me independence and inner strength when I was very young. My brother and I were not born to validate her or act as foils in her personal psychodrama. She seriously devoted herself unselfishly to our best interests. I was almost never coddled, the exception being when I had the mumps. Then, she cradled my agony-ridden frame in her lap all night long, before leaving for work after having worked all day the day before. No more than two or three times did she find it necessary to resort to physical punishment. For the most part, she incentivized responsible behavior with candy and cash, and would on occasion play the guilt card.

Although highly communicative (I was her duty-bound listener for most of my childhood), she eschewed maudlin displays. My father would say he loved me. My mother would demonstrate it. My father would say how proud he was. My mother, on the other hand, was content to act as though she knew I was capable and intelligent -- she took my wit as a matter of course.

I can't imagine what it would be like to live as that woman on Dr. Phil who hated -- hated! -- her mother. I think of my friend "K," whose relationship with his mother to hear him describe it resembles nothing so much as that which exists between two alligators. And one twisted mess in particular, a man who briefly played my nemesis, exemplified spoiled son syndrome. The man had spent all his life under a mother who cleaned up after him, lied for him, and indulged him in every single way. The result was less a man than an unconscionable monster whom no one seems to be able to stand.

When I'm told by someone they think I'm a good person, I know precisely who to credit.

Of course, I have let my mother down. Though touched by artistic and musical talent herself, she completely lacks the artistic temperament, and despairs when she sees it in me. My flightiness, my space cadet moments, no doubt vex her sensible, level head to no end. And I'm pretty sure she's given up on teaching me the value of a dollar. Still, she taught me to value my mind. She is a highly intelligent woman who I'm glad to say is not disappointed in her eldest son's capacity for thought.

My mother and I don't bandy terms of endearment. Our bond is divinely animal. Words are for the mere quotidian. Without her saying it, or my having to ask, I know for a fact she would sacrifice her life to save mine. She wouldn't even wring her hands or debate self-interestedly. It would be a given.

How many people in this world are as fortunate as I am?