Nothing was more important to my mom than family and she expressed that commitment in her own special way.
When the latest preparation of a meal didn’t taste quite right, it was usually because she had been tinkering with the recipe to align it with the latest nutritional theory. The first iteration was always great and then the adjustments would begin. White flour would be replaced with whole-wheat flour and then spelt, butter would be replaced with yogurt which would then become water each following the theory that anything that tasted good probably wasn’t healthy enough. After a few weeks the original dish would have inevitably been transformed into a highly nutritious yet tasteless mush sprinkled with flax seeds (her favorite garnish).
Every time a confused Greyhound driver witnessed my attempts to navigate the Port Authority terminal while juggling a half dozen chicken thighs and a jar of homemade tomato sauce, you could be sure my mom had been at work, fighting to ward off the horrors of processed food. In the hour before leaving she would begin rummaging through the fridge and throwing everything in sight into a series of plastic grocery bags. It didn’t matter if I already had two suitcases, plenty of food at my final destination, or the only containers she had were leaky Tupperware. She was determined to make sure I would not starve.
If I ever temporarily misplaced my phone I was sure to find it with a series of missed calls from my mother complemented by a full suite of voicemails, emails, and text messages. She hadn’t heard from me in a few hours and wanted to make sure I was OK. When she felt I wasn’t being sufficiently responsive she would begin calling whomever I was with. It was almost a weekly occurrence where I would be told by a friend, your mom is looking for you.
Summer days often began with my mother chasing me down the sidewalk, an industrial sized container of sunscreen in her hand. She wouldn’t be satisfied until my pasty complexion was completely obscured by a thick layer of SPF 100. After that came a shirt, a hat, and strict instructions to stay out of direct sunlight. This was a routine she employed every morning between May and October as she had seen the damages that the sun could do.
Everything was done with an eye towards protecting those she cared about.
Every night, on my walk home from work I would call, and she would tirelessly quiz me on my day and any new developments in my career. When one of my early reviews made a mention of blocking and tackling she conducted extensive research into how this idiom should be interpreted and exactly how one would tackle in the office environment. She enjoyed hearing anything I had to tell her and while it was debatable whether she ever fully understood what my job entailed, it was always clear that she was my biggest fan.
Even in her final days, my mom never gave up looking out for those she cared about. Every visit entailed a complete breakdown of what everyone had been up to and every time I purchased a sandwich from the Potbelly Sandwich Shop attached to the hospital, she would remind me of the coupons she had at home and how I should take those next time I visited.
The hospital staff always mentioned how lucky my mother said she was to have her family, but in reality we were the ones who were lucky to have her. We love you mom.