First, let’s get comfy with the facts. Maybe you think you’ve got a pretty good mom, but mine is better. (Sorry, mom, don’t mean to embarrass you, but facts are facts. You can’t argue with Science.) I grew up in one of those bizarre stable households where the children are loved and supported by both parents. Maybe you’ve read about something like that. I lived it. I still live it, but from a safe distance.
Because Mom is so great, there are three important lessons I did not learn.
Mom takes good care of us. Almost every meal I ate as a child was a home-cooked masterpiece. As the Pickiest Eater On Earth, I did not fully appreciate how much toil went into each dish I pushed away. Years later, at a dinner with mom’s side of the family, I watched Dupes push a plate back that still had squash casserole on it (he feels the same way about that stuff I do), and say, “Thank you, Munzy, that was a wonderful meal.” I realized he never, ever got up from the table without thanking the cook. I, on the other hand, had never given the wonderful meals I had been served my whole life a second thought. I try now to always thank the cook, but I’m sure I miss sometimes.
There are a lot of things I’ve probably forgotten to say thank you for. Big things like plane tickets, little things like, well, all those thousands of tolerances and smiles that made me who I am now. It’s impossible to say thank you for each and every one, there’d be no time for anything else. For all those little things my only way to say thank you is to crash ahead with this big dumb experiment called life and do the best I can. For the big things, though, the numerable things, specific thanks are in order. Thanks, Mom.
Now, forty years later, I’m pretty good at please and thank you. Better than some, not as good as others, but ahead of the curve. I’m a nice guy, polite out the wazoo. (Mom may beg to differ.) But that leads me to the third thing I didn’t learn so well. The thing that’s going to decide whether I’m hanging out with the sheep or the goats when the final horn blows. Please and Thank You are phrases to show appreciation for something someone else has done. More powerful than either of those, and the lesson I have yet to master, is the phrase “Let me do that.”
There are lots of permutations of that phrase, but it comes down to pulling your ass out of the comfy chair after the Thanksgiving dinner and helping with the dishes. It’s about running to the store when you’re tired, or folding someone else’s laundry. There could be a lot more ‘Let me to that’ in my family, but after all these years it is a lesson I’m still working on. Living alone is good practice for that.
I guess. like the rest of humanity, I am a work in progress. Overall, however, things are going well for me. I’m on a good road, and it was Mom who pointed the way.