Some day, you will realize that you love your parents. This will happen shortly after you realize that they’re just human beings, and shortly before you make the same realization about yourself.
At least, that’s how it happened with me.
If you broke the last twelve years of my life up into an easy-to-digest pie-chart, it would look like the leftovers from a particularly un-hungry family’s Thanksgiving dinner. A quarter of raspberry self-loathing, a third of blueberry disgust at the world, and one-sixth– if that mathematically adds up– of pumpkin-pie void; a blank space where I wasn’t a part of the world and wasn’t letting the world be a part of me.
Now, I am at that brilliant moment in the cycle of life where the dawn of childhood hasn’t quite given way to the dusk of adulthood. And in these few, beautiful years, when I’ve shorn the dependency of youth but not quite yet donned the full responsibilities of being grown up, things are clearer than I’m sure they ever will be again. The “clarity” being that the moment, our moment, is the only thing that matters.
At this juncture in life, no one really cares how much money I make and it isn’t important whether I have a career or a job. My friends from high school still remember my birthday. “Going out for drinks” doesn’t mean 40’s in my best friend’s basement. Nothing is bad and everything is good, because everything is mine.
When within these few years of spontaneity, knowing what’s mine makes me remember how it was given to me, by whom, and at what cost. And looking myself in the eye and admitting I’ve made mistakes and irreparably hurt people, I know that it is because of my parents that I understand humility.
Have you ever noticed– or truly appreciated– the beauty and irony in the fact that the words “American Standard” is printed inside most toilet seats, right above where you squeeze out your Taco Bell leftovers? Everything your parents did to you, every lesson they tried to teach, all the hours spent worrying and nagging you, those trifles that collaborate to create the totality of “parenthood,” all of that, like the “American Standard”, are tidbits you won’t understand or care about until it’s too late.
I was able to surmount the ridiculousness of the past decade or so because of my mother. Hating her confused me. And confusion breeds trials, errors and, ultimately, solutions.
I remember my mom reading a book called Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch to me when I was hardly old enough to listen, let alone understand. The now-infamous chorus of this children’s story sings:
I’ll love you forever
I’ll like for always
as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be
This, cooed from a water-color painting of an adoring mother to her pastel son on the glossy pages of the hardcover treasure in my mother’s lap, made my wide little brown eyes cry. Not because of the delicate tenderness behind the words. It was the beginning of that very last line… as long as I’m living. Looking up at my mom, something in my teeny, curly-haired head shifted forever because I realized that one day my mother would not be living. A chilling realization at an age when understanding toilet etiquette was still iffy. I’m quite sure it’s damaged me for at least most of the rest of my life.
But paramount to my emotional damage is the revelation that my mother loved me then. She loved me through my seven-year-old screaming fits, my dark and dangerous teen years, the multitudinous mistakes I’ve made in young adulthood. When I walked across the stage at my college graduation a few weekends ago, she loved me. Not because she made me who I am: she’ll never admit to that.
And until now, I wouldn’t have admitted to it, either.