Sunday, May 10, 2009

A touching tribute

Happy Mother's Day! It's a good day to talk about feelings, continuing Flo & Bo's series of daily posts honoring nursing sensibilities.

I became a nurse because I was fascinated with birth, the highly complex process that allows one person to emerge from the body of another. On Mother's Day, we celebrate important relationships that happen in the aftermath of birth, few as straightforward as the creative act itself.

I come from straight-talking women, and I'm fortunate to be my mother's daughter. My maternal grandmother understood complicated things about birth and birth-control, offering on-point observations that included "a drop's as good as a cupful." (Country-woman wisdom that carried a microbiologist's understanding of conception.) But my grandmother's knowledge didn't necessarily inform her personal situation: I'm descended from her 7th child, a change-of-life baby who came along when my grandmother longed to have a driver's license, not another baby.

She managed to get both.

My mother had something of an "auto-pilot" upbringing, which was probably characteristic of the way children born in 1935 and trailing their next-oldest sibling by a decade were raised. She emerged with a concrete, sequential outlook, a way of thinking and organizing data that is best evidenced by the neatly written, color-coded files and lesson plans she maintained throughout her long, distinguished career as a public school teacher in Pennsylvania. In a word, my mother is reliable.

"Auto-pilot" was not the style of parenting my mother used when it was time to raise her children, though. In the house where I grew up, if someone said they'd pick you up following an after-school activity, they did. If you had a doctor's appointment, someone took you to the doctor. When the phone rang, someone answered it.

My mother isn't dogmatic. She doesn't do things for the sake of doing them nor does she do everything herself. Not everything makes it onto my mother's "to do" list. But when it makes the list, it gets done. (She once wrote, "relax, have fun in sun" on the list of things my husband and I were assigned to do in the days preceding our wedding, an entry that we--not fully understanding the mind of a concrete, sequential person--found both humorous and somewhat disturbing. Twenty-two years later, my mother stands by her decision to put "have fun in sun" on the list.)

Thank you for letting me grow up knowing what reliable looks like, Mom! I wouldn't be "the nurse with an engineer's mind" that I am today without you!

Bo with her highly reliable parents.

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