Yesterday was my mom’s birthday.
It wasn’t one of the big ones – the ones that end in zero that the human mind tends to focus on when deciding what constitutes a milestone. It was what the baseball scorekeepers call a crooked number – something with curves or angles in it (i.e. not a 1) that looks good up on the scoreboard. Most birthdays are like that.
This is, in some respects, why it was special.
It’s been a long year in many ways, and it is good to be reminded of the things that make life on this planet worthwhile – the people you love and the times you share. I’m too far away to pop over for cake these days – have been for decades now – and as usual the card and gift that we’re sending will get there at some point that can easily be defined as “not on or before her actual birthday.” I’ve never been very good at that. We celebrate when we have time.
And we do celebrate, because we should.
I have been extraordinarily fortunate in the people in my life. I have two lovely and amazing daughters, and a wife who fills my world with love. I have more good friends than a person of my social skills could reasonably hope for, in-laws who burn the stereotypes to ashes, and colleagues who make work a good place to be. And my family is the foundation of my world.
I have learned a lot from my mom.
I got my love of reading from her. My mom has never been without a book. Every room in the house is full of them, and she taught me by example that reading is never a waste of time. We share books back and forth sometimes even now. This is, perhaps, one of the most influential things anyone has ever taught me. I am never without a book either.
I got my appreciation for strong and intelligent women from her. She has navigated many fields in her life and succeeded in them because of that strength and intelligence. I wrote my dissertation largely with her in mind as an audience, in part because it takes strength and intelligence to parse out someone else's dissertation, after all. There are far too many men in this world who find such women threatening and seek to undermine them. Those men are fools.
I learned how to take responsibility and to care for others from her as well. How to welcome people into a home. How to think. How to see what is in front of me. How to do so many things.
And I keep learning. That’s another lesson. Always keep learning. My mom is well past retirement now, and still learning and still teaching by example.
Happy birthday, mom.