WALSH: The impossible task

There’s no more impossible task than thanking our mothers on Mother’s Day. It’s like thanking the Earth for water; the gift is larger than any act of appreciation.

Not only did my mom bring me into this world, she kept me in it six years later as she chased down the golf cart in which I was hurtling backward toward a busy street. She did it again by slamming on the brakes after I’d decided to open the backseat door while we were driving on the highway. (I was playing Richard Petty.)

She ferried me to endless appointments with ear doctors, dentists, orthodontists, audiologists, and speech therapists. She’d hold my hand right up until the very last minute as they wheeled me into operating rooms. Afterward, she saw my watery eyes as I looked into the mirror and told me, “Rob, your cleft palate has character.” It was a sentence that got me through my entire awkward adolescence.

It’s impossible to thank her for all the little things: the midnight applications of Vicks VapoRub, the two strips of bacon on top of the meatloaf, the itchy feel of her stitched patches on the inside legs of my Toughskins. She never failed to remind us every holy day, yet forgave us when we forgot what should have been the holiest day of all: her birthday.

How can I tell this woman who has sacrificed the better part of her life for me that I’m grateful? That I loved every day I got to stay home sick from school because we got to spend it together? That I loved listening to her practicing her chorale group songs as she cleaned? That I now understand how much work it was for her to make our birthdays so special, to drive those endless car pools, to shop for us while she was on a diet? That it just wasn’t Christmas until we saw her crying during the Ave Maria? That I still look at my reflection in the shower faucet and remember how she made fishtails out of my hair?

My mom created tradition out of thin air: small baskets of M&M’s by each place setting during holidays, Ritz crackers and ginger ale for stomach aches, a trip to Stew Leonard’s to buy sandwiches for “her workers” after a long day of yard work. She made things special, even after spending all afternoon doing laundry, only to have my brother put his clean clothes back in the laundry hamper so he wouldn’t have to put them away.

She taught me to appreciate literature and the importance of delivery when telling a story, how hand gestures and voice inflection can bring a tale to life. Most importantly, she awakened in me an appreciation of the power of laughter, how making people smile makes them feel special. I’ve seen her do it a thousand times and wish I could do it as effortlessly.

I remember the thousands of times she thanked me for doing things I should have done without being asked, but I don’t remember many times thanking her for things I had no right asking for. In the end, there’s just not enough paper in the world to do her justice.

So, happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, even if thanking you adequately is impossible to do.

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net and contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.

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