Tuesday, February 28, 2012

We love her more.

There are places I'll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all 

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more 

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more
In my life, I love you more

~ The Beatles "In My Life"


Mom turned sixty-five this month. Sixty-five.

"What do you want?" we all asked.

Diamonds? Pearls? A snazzy pocketbook? A gadget of some sort? A necklace from Tiffany? A trip to some exotic place?

Nope. None of that.

"I just want us all to be together," she said. "Maybe we can all go to dinner or something?"

This is what she told my brother who then told me in a text message. My brother with the four children, the three veterinary practices, the equally-busy-veterinarian wife, and the crazy life. And also the brother with whom I'd allowed a series of petty misunderstandings create a subtle separation between us.

No, not the kind where you refuse to speak ever again. But the more pervasive kind that eventually makes more than just the two of you uncomfortable. Subtle. Where you are pleasant and cordial when you see each other because you know better than to be something other than that. Pervasive. Where you're there together, yes, but that undercurrent makes it slightly unpleasant for everyone. Like a well-behaved elephant in the room with a giant wrist watch on, counting down the minutes to when you can get back to whatever you both were doing.

"Mom wants us all to take her to dinner for her birthday," his text message read. "All of us."

And seeing as my brother lives less than a block from my mother, that "all of us" part meant "not just those of us who live right near her" but all of us. You. Me. Harry. Everyone.

I didn't mention my older sister's name because she, like my younger sister, has always been a little less . . .flaky than my brother and me.

"The flakes." Ha.

Oh, the story behind that? Well, once Dad had gotten very angry with my brother and me for the umpteenth time and in that lecture he knighted the two of us the "flaky" kids. But it never bothered us.

Flakes. To us, it meant that we were quirky in a cool way, marchers to our own drums, and, even if a bit difficult at times, it meant that we were quasi-masters of our own destinies. And for the most part, that proved to be true. From that point forward we affectionately referred to one another as "Flake #1" and "Flake #2."

But this time, that flakiness had crept in elsewhere. Carefully teasing apart two like-minded siblings who had once been indescribably close. Which also created this heaviness between our spouses as well and, though it hurts to admit it, what could and likely would eventually become a wayward drifting of our children. Subtle. Pervasive. Elusive, even. No lamps being thrown across rooms or f-bombs being dropped. Just the numbing indifference created by repetitive misunderstandings that get placed on back burners, and that eventually get replaced by some distorted version of the truth.

Such as: "we just are different people."  Or: "it is what it is."  Even though we both know that we've been different people all along and that "it is what it is" is never a suitable explanation for families being divided.

At least not ours.

"I just want us all to be together. My kids, my grandkids, everyone."

That was all she wanted for her birthday. That's it. That's all.

Sounds simple enough doesn't it?

And actually? It was. It truly was. Because no matter how "different" we claim to be, one thing that we all can agree upon is loving Mom. "Sugar." The woman that is so sweet that everyone calls her some version of that word.  "Shug" for short. Or even "Shugsie."

And so. The Atlanta contingent of our family came together on the sixty-fifth anniversary of the day my mother was born. Packed up all of our pride and stuffed it down as tightly as we could to give Shug the birthday she deserved. At her favorite restaurant with the good music and the good people and the good food.

In we walked, and there everyone was. My brother, Will, and his entire family. My sister, Deanna, and of course, Shug. But something else was in that room, too. A spirit, an energy sprinkling goodness on that day like fairy dust. So as we entered, it somehow became like a receiving line--everyone hugging and kissing and feeling celebratory. And for good reason.


Then something happened.

First a big hug between Will and Harry. Tight and genuine. Unusually so. And you know? There's something about seeing two men hugging like that that seems to right the world. That gesture seemed to set the tone for the evening. . . reminding us why we were all there and how blessed we are to have this kind of family. And especially that the "stuff" that we had allowed to creep into our lives was stupid, really. And not worth it.

This was just a few days after Dad had lost his baby sister. His sister who he'd sometimes had a few misunderstandings with, too, but always pushed beyond. Watching him mourn her death reminded us all of how short life is and how careful we have to be as stewards of the time we've been given here.

Next came hugs between my brother and me. Knowing, telling, issue-squashing hugs. And just then, that blanket of heavy lifted up and floated away. We could feel it when it happened. Everything lightened and love took over. And I tell you, something in my heart believes it left for good.

And Mom. Oh, Mother. The look on her face, the joy in her laughter, the peace in her eyes--it was . . .indescribable. I felt so happy but so ashamed when I saw it, too. Because in that moment, I knew that this is all a parent really wants. For their kids to be happy and whole but also harmonious and at peace.

But that can't be forced, you know? After sixty-five years, Shug is wise enough to know that you can't tell forty-somethings to simply "kiss and make up."

But she's also wise enough to believe that love, with its perfect timing, can. 

And this time it did.

"If I didn't wake up tomorrow, you all could know I died the happiest sixty-five year old woman in the world."

That's what Shug said as the night drew to a close. And she meant every word.

I watch people as they grow older because there is so much to learn. In this moment, I saw a sixty-five year old woman with children old enough and employed enough to get her pretty much whatever material thing she wanted. But all she wanted was something that couldn't be purchased in a store. Peace, love, fellowship, family and harmony. Oh and what a joy it was to give it to her--to give our mother exactly what she wanted.

This morning, I'm reflecting on that. On what is really important and what matters. I am thinking of how happy we all were that night and how happy we made our mother. But most of all, I'm holding on to the lesson in it all:  that many times the very thing we have to give someone--especially a loved one--is the very gift they'd already given us long before.

Happy Birthday, Mom. From here forward, we promise to always love you more.

Happy Tuesday.

And now playing on my mental iPod. . . .the song that was playing from this moment between Flakes 1 and 2 from Shugsie's party:

.  . .and of course, the original since now I know it's in your head. (*You're welcome.*) 

"Honor your father and your mother, 
so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you."  

~ Exodus 20:12


  1. 1. You have made me cry.
    2. I know what I want for my sixty-fifth birthday.


  2. Ok, I am boo-hooing at my desk right now. You could just feel the love emanating from those pictures (LOVE the thumb fights), so I was prepared to comment about how happy it made made me feel, and then I watched the video which sent me over the edge. Such a beautiful moment between you and your brother.

  3. KIM!!!!! Once again you have managed to make this water come out of my eyes! What a wonderful blog about your mother! It's nothing like a mother's love! Enjoy it, cherish it, and make time every moment you can. Love ya! Now, I must get myself together for a meeting. "somebody give me some tissue" - Crystal/ Front INC.

  4. You know how I asked you to give your baby sister a heads up on a Kleenex worthy post? Well, you're slacking on your job, Flake #2! I can't sit up in my office at work sniffling like this! LOL!

    I asked Shugsie, "What would you have done if I had walked through the door at Three Blind Mice and surprised you?" She said she would have died, so it's just as well I didn't do that. LOL.

    Love this post. As always.

  5. "this is all a parent really wants. For their kids to be happy and whole but also harmonious and at peace."
    YES! so glad you and your brother got past the block and Happy 65th to your mother!

  6. I am pretty close to Shug's age and I agree with her totally: there is no better gift than having my three children and their spouses and children together in one place! No fancy gift compares with Motherlove.

    On my desk in front of me is a picture of my three at such an occasion. I feeds my soul!


  7. Beautiful! Happy Birthday Momma Grady Doctor! I love looking at all the gene-trading on those faces. Everybody looks alike in some way. Genetics was hands down my favorite scientific subject in high school. When I found out there was an explanation for it all? SO COOL!

  8. It does not get any better than this.

  9. Does not get any better than this. It does not.

    Maria, fellow Meharrian

  10. Best.Birthday.Ever.
    My baby girl and your dad were there in my heart.
    Thank you!

  11. Happy Birthday, Indeed.

    Buh-bye watch-wearing bummer elephant.

  12. My heart is completely full reading this. You and your brother just decided. You just did. The love in that video is so plain to see. What a wonderful gift for you Mom. Such a beautiful family. Such a beautiful you.

  13. Made me cry too. Just beautiful. Thanks for sharing the love.

  14. So this made me tear up. There are four of us and somehow my youngest brother (and by association, his wife and children) has drifted into that uncomfortable space. That space is exactly as you have described. There is no cursing or yelling or throwing of things, but we feel closer to strangers than we do to our brother and it hurts. My constant prayer this year is that our family will be fully reconciled. Your reconciliation with your brother has helped provide me with an extra measure of hope and I thank you for sharing.

    Beautiful pictures, beautiful family.

  15. What a great gift for your mom! And boy does your brother look like your dad! Does this mean I've been reading your blog so long I feel like I know your family? Lol

  16. Oh my gosh...I'm crying my eyes out after reading this one. First of all, Happy Birthday to Mrs. Shug!! I started off reading the most recent 'reflection' and then decided to read last years about your mom's 65th. Wow!!!! I can't seem to stop crying. I love every word that you chose to describe the evening. So real. And the video of you and your brother ... wow!! *more tears* Love you, Soror!!!!!

    Angela Fairwell
    (Deanna's friend in NoVAC)


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

Related Posts with Thumbnails