We’d end each day the same way – all of us watching some tv show or another, Mom on the big couch, we three sort of squished together on the love seat. She’d barely make it to the first commercial break before she was asleep.
We complained about it then – that she should just go up to her room and to bed – leave us with both couches, and not having to whisper so we wouldn’t wake her. It wasn’t fair – selfish, even. Why did she always get the big couch? That memory became one of those things from childhood my brother, sister, and I remembered and laughed about – and for years, it still held this subtle edge of judgement.
And then there was the day my Mom shared with me what it was really like for her to be a single mom.
She told me how it was to be young, and scared – mostly all of the time. She worried that although my Dad was wonderful – a very active parent, supportive financially – that if anything ever happened to him, she wouldn’t be able to support us on her own. It kept her up at night. She took out loans and put herself back in school. She became a nurse – because nurses always had a job. Then she put herself through grad school so she could take on more responsibility, with more job security. I just thought she wanted it. She worked full time, carried a full load in school, and made dinner every night. She was at every school play, soccer game, band concert, tennis match, etc., etc. I suppose I knew at least some of it, but like I know the ground is under me – I never really thought about it – not like that.
And then – then, she told me about the couch.
She said every night she sat down intending to spend time with us. We were the most important thing in her life – she just wanted to be with us. She wanted to laugh with us, and she wanted to watch Little House on the Prairie with us. She knew we grumbled about it, and promised herself over and over she’d stay awake. But, every night, she fell asleep. She was just too exhausted. She cried when she told me. So did I.
There are a lot of ways I probably could depict my Mom as a young woman – but this – this is my Mom. My beautiful, courageous, selfless, Mom.