43: She Put Her Book Down

43: She Put Her Book Down

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

She Put Her Book Down

The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.

~Peter F. Drucker

The early morning sunlight brightened and warmed the hospital waiting room as we awaited the results from my mother’s latest surgery. I feared the worst, and that led me to contemplate specifically what it was that made my mother so special to me. Like most children, I believe that my mother is the best mother that anyone could have. How could you feel otherwise about the person who gave birth to you, fed you, cleaned up after you, kissed your boo-boos better, cared for you when you were sick, held you close when your first love broke your heart, and did millions of other things for you, too?

As I enjoyed the warmth of the sunlight it dawned on me that the most extraordinary my mother did for me—the one characteristic that illustrated everything about her as a mom—was that she always put her book down.

When I was a teenager, I was so wrapped up in myself that I felt my issues were the most important and weighty things in the world. Also, like most teenagers, I would keep my worries and concerns to myself and try to figure things out on my own, since no one else could possibly understand what I was going through. But every so often I could not ignore the need to talk to someone and I would drift into my parents’ bedroom to unburden myself to my mother while she was sitting in bed reading.

As the mother of five rambunctious children, she would often retreat to her room in the evening for some “down time.” I’m sure she viewed this as her time to relax, unwind, and get away from the pressures of caring for a husband and children, even if only for a few moments. Yet even though this was to be her time for herself she would never close the door to the bedroom. This was because she and my father had stressed to us that we were always welcome to talk to them about anything, at any time.

I would sit on the edge of the bed and begin with some idle chitchat as I worked up my nerve to talk about what was bothering me. My mother would always do something remarkable—she put her book down. The impact of that simple act still resonates with me today, many decades later. How easy would it have been for her to sneak peeks at her book and act as if she was listening? But she put the book down, and in so doing demonstrated to her child that he was loved, accepted, and cared for. She never once complained that I was interfering with “her time,” she never asked if I could come back later, and not once did she act as if my thoughts or concerns were stupid, irrelevant, or silly. She simply put her book down and actively listened to her child for as long as was needed.

In the decades since then I have tried to embrace the lessons that my mother silently taught during those mother-son conversations. I have noted that many times when someone comes to me and strikes up a conversation, I almost automatically put down whatever I am reading so I may give this individual the same gift that my mother gave to me. I strive to remember how it felt to know that what I had to say was important to someone else and what a wonderful and powerful message can be sent by simply putting the book down.

The warm sunlight was a good omen, the surgery was successful and this “love letter to my mother” isn’t a posthumous one. Is my mother special? She most certainly is special in so many ways; not the least of which is—she put her book down.

~Dale G. Jackson

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