No matter what age you are, when you are sick, you want your mommy.
When I am really down, I hear my mother’s voice: “You need someone to take care of you.”
For the past three weeks, I’ve watched as my body rebelled against everything I needed it to do. I got strep throat, followed by a nice, healthy case of pneumonia. As I write this, I am still living in my own rather gross world, which I have titled “Great Expectorations.”
I have not been alone in my misery. The whole Chicago Parent staff has been hit by disease—a little flu here, a high fever there and a case of bronchitis just for good measure. People are donning surgical masks before walking into our office.
During this same period, the members of my family have tried to outdo one another at the illness game. But my two boys will be boys, and while they dallied with gastrointestinal distress, colds and a 24-hour bug, I threw down my trump card—pulmonary inflammation and infection. When Mom does it, she likes to do it all the way.
And while this is all happening, we have been in the midst of putting out this issue, the May issue, our Mother’s Day issue.
I don’t think it is coincidence. Because while I may have grown up to be a mom, I never grew out of wanting to be mothered.
When I am sick, my heart yearns for Mom:
n Games of double solitaire and gin rummy played in the folds of the blanket on my bed.
n Trays filled with ginger ale, fresh-cut fruit and toast, cut into quarters with just a dab of butter.
n Fresh flowers, to have something nice to look at while in bed.
n And the best medicine of all, her gentle hand, stroking my hair.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve always had my mom. She’s been there to nurse me through the emotional as well as the physical lows. She juggled three daughters, a successful career, community activism and many volunteer activities. Yet she was there to guide me through it all with good advice and her ability to mobilize into action.
Her philosophy has always been that when you are sick, you really don’t want to think about what you want. It should just appear.
But, then, she doesn’t need to ask what I need. She knows.
When my water broke six weeks early before my first son was born, I was a mess. We had just moved to a new house—the nursery was a pile of boxes. After the doctor delivered the news that I would have to stay in bed, my mother took a minute to comfort me and then picked up the phone. She dialed and said, “Hello, Lazar’s? I need to place an order and I need it delivered.”
She ordered the whole nursery from my hospital bedside without even checking her wallet for her credit card number. Then, she dialed again and presto—she ordered the layette, right down to the rattle.
For months, I had fumbled with lists and numbers, wondering: What do I really need for my baby and how many of them should I get?
Like the veteran she is, my mom knew.
Later that same day, she arrived at the hospital with a bag of “nicies,” as she calls them, for the nurses, telling me, “You need someone to take care of you and these are the people who are going to do it. So, we have to take care of them.”
When my second son was born in a harrowing world entrance that caused me to bleed way too much and sidelined me in bed for several weeks, my mother was at the hospital every day. (My two sweet sisters stepped in to rescue me as well. But then, they had a great teacher.)
When I got home, Mom didn’t ask what I needed. Her sweet face appeared at my bedroom door with a tray of chicken soup, cut-up fresh fruit and fresh flowers.
As the years roll by, things just don’t change.
Just two weeks ago, although she can ill afford to contract our diseases, my mother showed up with two bags of groceries filled with chicken soup, fresh fruit and variations on that theme—chicken salad and fruit juice.
Along with a colorful bunch of tulips. “You need to have something pretty to look at while you are in bed.”
It’s nice to know that even when you get to the point where the world believes you are a responsible adult, you still have a place to go where you can collapse as a little child and find that perfect brand of sunshine that only a mother can provide—a smile and a hug.
And being tough as nails, my mother looked at my two dear teenage boys who tower above her 5-foot frame and gave them the look. The two of them, who had been through their own illnesses, were a bit weary of weeks of watching mom shuffle from bed to bathroom, because let’s face it—there were no trays for them this time, no ginger ale, no toast and no fresh fruit. They clearly were suffering from a bit of compassion fatigue for their dear, old Mom.
So my mom gave the two of them a quick, tight, straighten-up-and-fly-right look and delivered her strong one liner: “Boys,” my mother said, “she just needs someone to take care of her.”
And I have you, Mom. Thank you and happy Mother’s Day.