I have been blessed in many ways in my life, abundantly so. One area that is a huge blessing that often fills my heart with gratitude is being a mother. This area runs the gamut of emotions; joy, uncertainty, frustration, fear, excitement, pride, love……and the list goes on. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday I was holding my first born daughter for the very first time, amazed that I was actually a mother, freaking out that I was responsible for this precious little bundle of joy……..and then to be hit in the face with the reality that she will be 26 this year. What the HECK?!?!!?! How did this happen????? To watch videos of my oldest son learning to ride a bike, showing a determination and tenacity that was amazing, as I plan what to do for his 21st birthday. To receive a text of my 15 year old son’s haircut, realizing he STILL has a pretty darn big head and has become this young gentlemen that blends the best of his father and me. To pump up bicycle tires for a family ride, and notice all the hair on your 14 year old son’s masculine legs, as his 12 year old sister impatiently rides around you, seamlessly using the best project manager’s tone with perfection. To have these thoughts running through your brain as you fall asleep, and then to wake to this video by Nichole Nordeman that a friend posted to Facebook…….WOW!!!! My friend warned that we’d need tissues, and she was right!
Time DOES need to slow down, and as a mother of five kids I can attest to that. But an interesting dynamic also exists in my life, and the last few days I’ve been pondering it. Recently, I’ve been dealing with my mother being ill; she has struggled with her health for many years, though at the age of nearly 81, it seems her struggles have become more……I don’t even know the right word to write. She and we have realized there will come a day, and perhaps that day is not as far off as it felt before, when she will graduate to heaven. And that realization has made me think of my own childhood, of all the memories I have shared with my mom, and with my dad, and with my siblings and friends and aunts and uncles and grandparents. And, even when these memories have been the most heartwarming and fun to reminisce over……..looking at my mother in her diminished state, hearing her voice that suddenly sounds old, seeing her hands shake or her skin bruise so easily…….seeing her now even as the memories of her back in the day taking no crap from anyone…….I wonder with awe where the hell the years have gone. Even with the years of illness she’s been through, I feel almost blindsided by the reality that my mother is nearly 81 years old and somehow became this person that needs gentle care, needs mothering and gentleness and words of comfort and compassion, and will not be on this earth forever.
And as I have emotionally and physically been trying to process this realization, not always holding it together….and in fact losing it occasionally as I regress to an 8 year old girl that needs her mommy while also fully existing in the role of the parent, coordinating updates with my siblings and talking to doctors and making sure she has money to pay for food…….I can’t help but acknowledge my support system. Of course Deana has been there for me in thousands of ways for which I can’t express enough in words. But to sit here and ponder……my own children have stepped up into a new role as well. Kirstie flew with me to California to visit my mom, and neither of us realized how much she’d be a tower of strength for me as I would swing between 8 year old and 48 year old Gina. She was there for me when I cried, she validated my anger when I raged, and she encouraged me when I felt hopeless. She saw her own grandmother struggle, and the compassion and empathy she displayed, the love she extended to the woman that used to hold and care for her as an infant was a blessing to behold. The maturity in which she balanced the fact that this could be the last time she saw her grandma, while ALSO comforting her own mother as I dealt with this same realization……made me realize the dynamic of family is so complex and robust and strong and……and…….beautiful.
I could go on and on about each of the kids. How Kenny seems to have radar and calls or texts me at the perfect time, knowing if I need to laugh or to talk or to just hear his voice. How Josh speaks to me, even as a teenager that has a full social life and sometimes moms aren’t as cool, but still enjoys interacting with me. How Zack always, always asks if I’ve had a good day, but more importantly follows up if I admit my day has been rough. Sophia, who is truly a mini me, gets when I am stressed or feeling inadequate because I really DON’T have the answers or the solution, even though she’s only 12. Through it all, even when I sit here watching that video and ponder where the time has gone, I must also admit these children that rely on me are also a huge support system. They feed my soul and care for me in ways I never planned. And, really, I thank God so much that He provided them to ME, that the very people I’ve taken care of for so many years have turned the table and are taking care of me. It is weird and majestic and awesome. And I am thankful for this, even if I just realized it.