Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Givng thanks, Part V

Throughout my childhood, teen years, and young adulthood, the only thing I consistently wanted to be was a mom. I love children and always have. I babysat from the time I was 11, and frequently imagined myself growing up to have my own children. (I never imagined childbirth, but that's another story, for another time!)

Within about six months of my marriage to Ed, my gynecologist looked at me and said, "Yep! Sometime in May!" I was ecstatic and began to dream more specific mommy-dreams from that moment. When Martin was placed into my arms and I examined each part of him, from head to toes, it almost didn't feel real to me. How can a dream really come true?

This, my oldest son, has taught me much about life! He was the first to teach me that having a baby reorients the center of the universe. He taught me that, no matter how exhausted I was, a smile or a giggle could re-energize. He taught me that a baby with a fever can shrink your world to a pinpoint and raise fears that even today give me chills.

Martin, as the first child, was always the trailblazer. He astonished us when, at age 2-1/2, he could identify every make of automobile in the parking lot as we walked into a restaurant. He loved excitement, whether it was bicycle motorcross, building ramps on the sidewalk for his Big Wheel, or towing his younger brother behind his bike in a wagon. Even today, Martin wants the biggest and the fastest - whether it's a roller coaster or a car. He's an adrenaline junkie and proud of it!

As with all first children, Martin was the test case. He tested every limit and pushed against every discipline. Sometimes, I despaired of ever getting him into adulthood. When, at age 18 after one of our more spectacular arguments, he told me that he is gay, we clung to each other and cried. Although my heart was broken for this, my oldest, I knew that I would never desert him, would stand beside him no matter what. When he joined the Navy the next year, I worried; when he was rejected by the Navy just two short years later, I was distraught. The career path he had chosen - and many others - were closed to him forever. It is to Martin that I owe my unyielding support of gay rights, that every man and every woman be treated fairly and equally, regardless of their circumstance.

I am so proud of this, my oldest son. He loves family and is a generous and devoted uncle to his nephews. I will always be the woman in his life and we share a bond that still amazes me sometimes. Oh, I know we frustrate each other from time to time, and he still doesn't like to follow my advice - even when he's asked me for it! - but I treasure each precious memory and am so proud to be his mom.

Fourteen months after Martin was born, the doctor once again said, "It's a boy!" As I held that baby close and examined him for all his parts, it was almost like being transported back in time. Although they don't look a lot alike as adults, when they were small they were occasionally mistaken for twins! But Jason was different from the start - a much more docile, laid-back, uncomplaining child. He slept through the night (six hours) when he was only two weeks old. Of course, that meant I had to find ways to entertain him during the day!

He adored his big brother and tried hard to keep up with him. Martin, on the other hand, wasn't too thrilled about this new addition to the family! Jason, from very early on, loved music of every kind. He sang as soon as he could talk, and would sing about anything! He was filled with curiosity, and saved his money to buy his first computer when he was only about 11 years old! He took great pride in writing out simple commands ("Hello World!") and loved the astonishment on my face when he showed me how to connect to the outside world with a modem.

Although both Martin and Jason took piano lessons as young children, only Jason persisted. Even when we moved and the lessons stopped, he continued to practice and play, and he always had a fine voice. When the time came for college, Jason chose to major in music and had to audition for entrance to the university. He competed against young men and women who had taken lessons all their lives, and yet he gained admission due to his own perseverance and talent.

After only 1-1/2 years of college, the company their dad worked for closed and Jason had to drop out. After much discussion, he joined the Navy Reserves, and eventually moved to Illinois, where he lives today. Jason has always worked hard and I marvel still at how diligent and creative he is. He is the father to his children that I always wish I had known. He loves them, he plays with them, he cares for them. He is a helpmeet to his wife; chores and responsibilities are shared and the love in that home is almost palpable. My pride in this, my middle son, knows no limits. He is a joy.

Nearly ten years after the birth of my first child, the doctor laid Benjamin on my chest and I fell into his eyes. He was the only child for whose birth I was awake, and I will never forget that moment of falling in love. Once again, a boy. No argument from me! I was used to raising boys and was happy, quite frankly, that I wouldn't have to share my clothes, my makeup, or my curling iron!

Martin and Jason loved their baby brother from the start, and I have always given them credit for having helped raise him. It wasn't always easy for Ben, I know. Kind of like having four parents at times! But he grew and thrived, and wanted to be like his brothers in every way. That nearly drove ALL of us crazy!

When Martin joined the Navy and Jason went to college, Ben came to me in tears. "Our family is falling apart," he said. As the child who was so much younger, it must have seemed to him as if his time would never arrive. And yet, even as young as he was, he became a strong support for me. When he I and flew to New York to bury my mother, it was Ben who took control when it appeared that we would miss a connection. He brought me a cup of coffee and then went to the gate agent and explained the situation. I was still exhausted and in tears when he came back and told me that he had worked everything out. He was a hero to me, and he was only 13.

When Ben and I moved to the Northwest, he helped keep my spirits up as I questioned over and over again if I was doing the right thing. He never wavered that he let me see. When I was down or afraid, he was there with a hug and words of encouragement. When he went back to visit his dad, and when he started college, I was lost and lonely.

But as Ben grew, so did I. When he went to college in 1998, I had been "mothering" for 28 years and it was what I knew how to do. When he and his wife chose to live in Portland near me following their marriage, it was a gift beyond compare. I could watch this, my youngest son, grow into the roles of husband and father in a way that I had missed with Jason. It seemed only fitting somehow that the child who had borne the brunt of my insecurities and anxieties would also be the child who stayed close enough to enjoy the contentment of my later years.

Ben is a loving and devoted husband and father, and I take great pride in him and joy in sharing his world.

So, these, my sons, are my great gift in life. Without them I would be so much poorer in love, in joy, in every meaningful way. The memories that a mother holds in her heart can never all be written down, nor should they be. Some are too intimate to share; some would involve a betrayal of trust; and some are so precious that sharing them would almost seem to trivialize them.

Martin, Jason, Benjamin. Never doubt my love for each of you, or the pride that I have for each of you. You have given my life meaning beyond compare. When asked of what I am most proud in my life, I always answer, without hesitation, being a mother to my boys.

And for this, I am truly thankful.

3 comments:

  1. These are fantastic pieces of family history... memoirs almost, that I am happy to have "on paper." Thanks for sharing these gems from your memory.

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  2. You're a great writer, Cheryle...and obviously a great mom, too.

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  3. I loved this post. It was so well written and inspiring, thank you and I hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving.

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