What My Mom Teaches Me About Life – 05/14/2023

A few weeks ago, I went to visit my mother at the end of the day.

I arrived and entered with the key she gave me. I yelled, “Mom, I’m home!” and no response.

Since she lives alone and is 86 years old, my first reaction was to think the worst.

I screamed again, this time louder because her hearing is compatible with that of a person almost nine decades old, even though she swears that our diction is getting worse every day: “You talk inside!”, she repeats without even blushing.

“Mother, I’m home!” I howled now.


I saw that the light in her room was on and the door was closed.

I was approaching slowly, now with the certainty of the worst, when I heard music.

I opened the bedroom door and noticed that the music was coming from the bathroom.

My mom was in the bath listening to music and singing along.

It was an Italian song, one of those classics that I grew up watching her listen to.

What I had never seen before was my mother singing.

I sat at the foot of his bed and stood there witnessing the event.

I wondered why it was only now that I heard her sing.

I remembered how she raised four children and a husband.

I write raised a husband because she washed, cooked, ironed and cleaned the house for the five of us.

Nobody there did much.

It was her and a domestic worker because I grew up in this context of institutionalized privileges and exploitation.

There was, I imagine, no time or inclination to hum in the shower.

Not for her, much less for the domestic worker who took turns with her taking care of the house and would still have to take who knows how many hours of driving at the end of the day to go back to her home and start washing, cooking and clean your own house.

Women like my mother were taught that motherhood is love and sacrifice in equal measure.

They were trained not to see housework as work.

Her job was duty.

The housemaid was a favor that we white people did by giving these people a job.

Beware of children, they said, it’s just love, nothing more.

Every mother needs to do it because that’s the order of things on Earth.

My mom came out of the shower in her bathrobe, cell phone in hand and still singing.

He saw me sitting on his bed and smiled.

As some habits never leave us, she asked what I wanted to eat.

I said I wasn’t hungry but would have a glass of wine.

I went into the living room to get two glasses of wine while she changed.

My mother, who walked briskly through the years of her youth and maturity, now moves from the bedroom to the kitchen in short, slow steps.

He’s already fallen a few times and doesn’t want to trip again or lose his balance.

The ground, which used to be so firm, now seems to be made of sand.

It is a walk very similar to that of Alice, her youngest granddaughter who is two and a half years old. But from old age few extract beauty.

My mom doesn’t complain anymore.

The first years of old age were difficult, he had a heart complication, surgery and a tense recovery. After that, she never complained again.

The other day I called and she said, in a tone that wasn’t complaining but more of confirmation, that her knee was hurting. I said: how strange, this has never happened before. And she replied: it’s just that I’ve never been old before.

My mother really gets mad when they talk to her in diminutive: little foot, little coat, little body.

She had become the woman of my teenage memory: strong, imposing, furious. I have no foot!, she says she emphatically. And then she explains, more calmly, that old age is not cognitive impairment or a return to childhood. Old age is another thing. When I ask what old age is, she shrugs and says, you’ll know.

My mother’s old age teaches me to be more patient.

I don’t always succeed, but I’ve been trying to see it like a mirror – which, hopefully, it will be.

I have to repeat things three times, I have to walk slowly by her side, I have to wait for her to get ready with the slowness of those who have no urgency for anything.

A trip to the corner supermarket takes hours.

She walks with her small, short, tiny step through the corridors bumping into people that her peripheral vision no longer sees.

I want to scream that I need to run, work, get into a meeting, that I don’t have all afternoon. But I hold back and go after him thinking about the days when we would go to the supermarket together, she would sit me in the shopping cart, with my back to his movement, and I would pass like an Olympic athlete through the aisles, picking up everything that was on the list , to go home soon and make dinner.

In my memory she is still the tall, strong, imposing, self-assured, determined woman I knew growing up.

But seeing her so much smaller, sitting in her room laughing at something on TV, hands that beat rhythmically and slowly on her legs without her noticing that she is doing this movement, I understand that life is about transformation.

Seeing my mother singing and laughing fills me with joy. I wish I had seen her like this when we were kids. I’ve never seen her as happy as I see her today. And all I wanted and needed to grow up confident was a happy mother. Radically happy.

That joy she perhaps felt every time she saw her children happy. Without even imagining that we could only be who we are thanks to all the sacrifices she went through.

It shouldn’t be like this.

Motherhood is not just love.

It’s work, the biggest job anyone can have given their responsibilities.

I like an African saying that it takes a village to care for a child.

Throwing into one person’s lap what a village needs to do is cruel and perverse. Raising children is the duty of an entire society.

My mother is the result of countless privileges, but also of a life story full of sadness: she spent the war in Italy, saw her father being shot, had to flee to Brazil and live in a boarding school.

She was able to give the four of us what she herself never had.

May we now be able to give her a dignified old age, in which she will laugh and sing until her last day.

Happy Mothers Day.

#Mom #Teaches #Life

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