You tease me frequently for being a pain in your back from day 1. You endured an entire day of back labor (I’m still not exactly sure what that is, just thankful that I’ll never experience it) before delivering me. As legend has it, I was then rushed out of the room before you got a chance to hold me… pain without any immediate payoff. You’ve embodied the sacrificial nature of motherhood from before I could ever recall, and you have handled those hardships with joy and gratitude.
Our family moved from Colorado Springs, Colorado to Sandpoint, Idaho when I was five years old and Danette was almost one. At the time, I was oblivious to what a challenging transition this was and had no clue just how tight finances were. The fact that I was around you nearly 24/7 and yet did not know that times were hard is a testament to your fortitude. You were never one to draw attention to your own struggle and instead put the needs of us kids and of the family above your own comfort. Growing up with such security has reaped benefits in my life beyond what I am even aware of, and I now feel prepared to face life with the same calmness that you did.
As all good moms do, you were steadfast and constant in your care for me whenever I was sick. The chicken noodle soup, the administration of medicine, the provision of a warm blanket – you did it all. The best memory of all was, of course, when I was sick for an extended period of time during the Gonzaga Bulldog’s first deep run in the NCAA tournament in 1998 (to all you naysayers, I PROMISE that I was actually sick). You willingly turned the channel from Oprah and Regis and Kathy Lee so I could watch basketball all day, every day, for a week! It was amazing.
But more significant than that, for me, was the social comfort. Growing up with a cleft lip involved a number of occasions when kids at school, people on the phone, or peers at church were jerks. I had every reason to believe the things they said about how funny I sounded or how goofy I looked, but you were ever ready to build me up and remind me that my identity was not in the sound of my voice or in the straightness of my nose. You helped me to never play the victim. You built me up and taught me social and emotional strength.
Art projects. Soccer. Awana. Basketball. Piano and drum lessons. School. You were there for all of them. You cheered me on. You supported me. You challenged me.
There was a piano recital at an old folks’ home, but my nervousness was as though I was performing solo at Madison Square Garden. I worked so hard for those two simple songs. But when the recital came, I messed up. I started over courageously, and messed up again. I tried a few more times before fleeing the stage in tears. To my memory, there was not a single redeemable thing about my performance that night, but you found the words to encourage and console me.