Don’t Hold Back



Don’t Hold Back

My sister cannot remember a time when my mother’s hair was not gray. 

My mother told me this in a letter she sent me not long ago.  Her hair turned completely gray when she was younger than I am now.  She did not bother to color it, preferring, I think, to spend that time and money on something that was more important.  

Mothers can be like that.  They put themselves on the back burner when other kettles are boiling, they give a mile when an inch might do, they hold back while everyone else helps themselves. 

Last spring, my father turned eighty.  We created a book for him that included pages of  “life lessons” that we had learned from him and photographs taken throughout his lifetime.    When I asked my siblings and my father’s twelve grandchildren to contribute to it, one of my brothers wrote this:

 “I learned from my dad that a woman who can cook, fish, sing, play the piano, raise four kids and beat you in a game of one-on-one basketball is a keeper.”

That sums it up, really.  A very short, concise version of who my mom is.  

She truly was a threat on the court.  She makes the best mashed potatoes and a mean blueberry pie.  She still plays the piano and sings better than any of us.  And she raised us four.

Which contributed, I am sure, to the graying of her hair.  My contribution to the gray hair was most likely larger than that of the other three. 

She is, of course, much more than a concise statement.   If we were to compile a book of what we learned from my mother, there would be a very, very long collection of loving memories and a lot of words about the well-earned respect that we have for her.   She taught us quietly and without fuss.  We learned and are still learning from her. 

We did not notice when her hair turned gray.   It is only when we look at pictures of her as a young woman that we remember what she looked like before she had gray hair.   When you see someone often, you might not notice small and gradual changes in appearance.

But when you age and grow and change together with someone else, you find yourself looking at them differently.   Not looking at what they look like, but looking at who they are.   And you notice things you would not have observed when you were 15. 

We do not notice her gray hair.  We see instead how fortunate we are that she is our mother, our grandmother and our great-grandmother.  We who are or will become parents and grandparents can only hope to be as fine. 

Today, she turns 80.

I do not think there will be a big fuss on her birthday.   That doesn’t suit her.    But we will all gather there next week to celebrate Thanksgiving.  On that day when we make a point of counting our blessings, she will be counted at the top of the list.   At the top where she always belongs.   And when we gather around the table for yet another time, we will wait to help ourselves and be sure that the beautiful woman with the gray hair is first in line.   

64 thoughts on “Don’t Hold Back

  1. She’s beautiful – inside and out – and I congratulate her on knowing what’s really important. How fortunate you are to have her as your role model!

  2. You are truly blessed to have had this woman in your life for so long. I lost my Mother at the age of twelve, she was only 42. I could always catch a glimpse of her in the mirror whenever I peeked in there, but now I see a woman older than she would ever be. I often try to think of how she would have looked at 60, 70 or 80. My imagination fails me. She will always be a young woman to me, especially in my heart.

    • Yes, I am very grateful she is still a part of my life. I can not imagine what life would be like if I’d lost my mother at such a young age. I, too, have looked at the mirror to see my mother and now when I look at her I imagine I am seeing into my future. Thank you for reading and for your kind and poignant comment.

  3. What a loving tribute to your mom. She sounds like a great lady! I love how you said she taught you “quietly and without fuss.” Isn’t this the best way? Happy 80th to your mom!

  4. Beautiful, heartfelt testimonial to that most divine of all creatures, moms. Your mother sounds like a wonderful role model. Blogosphere birthday wishes to her.

    And, as a big sports fan, I love that she rocks on the hardwood!

  5. Your mother sounds like a terrific and beautiful woman. You and your family are truly blessed.

    I hope that you have a happy Thanksgiving, and that your mother enjoys both the holiday and her birthday celebration.

  6. Great tribute to your mum. I think grey and silver hair sparkles in the sun; a crown of a lifetime achievement, so to speak. Wonderful pictures too! She definately raised a great daughter such as yourself. Have a lovely day! 🙂

  7. Great post about your mom. She has a wonderful smile, it looks right at home on her face, like it is used to being there. Thanks for sharing her with us, and give her a birthday hug for me!

  8. Isn’t it so weird to see our moms young? And will our kids look at our blogs and say…mom sure was a firecracker at one time. Makes me want to have a glamor photo take, but they’d have to shoot through gauze. Thanks for the gentle adoration of the hand that raised us.

  9. I loved your words and the pictures of her. What a sweet tribute to your mom! My mom has managed to only have a few gray hairs until just recently. She’s almost all gray now (she’s almost 78 years old) I love to look back through old photos of her and reminisce about old memories.

  10. Happy Brithday for this beautiful lady and your mother. This is a great post, you are so nice too. And what a beautiful thing you did for your father too… I am impressed so much. I wish you for you all Blessing and Happiness, Thank you, with my love, nia

  11. As always, beautifully stated. Your brother’s words gave me a nice morning giggle. Loved it. Wishing your mother a happy & prosperous 80th birthday & Joyful Thanksgiving wishes to you all.

  12. Your Mum did very well bringing up such a daughter, and in her pictures she has such a strong beautiful face.. I especially loved the book you made with all the things you learnt from your dad, what an inspiring thought! thank you .. c

  13. Obviously you are blessed, as I am, with a supermom. She is a beauty inside and out, and clearly shaped four wonderful children who will do their best to carry on the tradition and pass along the joys of such a supportive and involved environment as your parents created. That’s worth celebrating indeed.

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