59: The Courage to Wait

59: The Courage to Wait

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

The Courage to Wait

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

~Winston Churchill

If I wrote a book called “All the Things My Mom Did Right,” it would be a long one, but not too long. My mom never liked conversations that went on too long, especially emotional ones. She’d sit in her favorite chair (the recliner my brother and I splurged on for her birthday one year, and that she later reupholstered to suit) and listen for almost an hour to my latest heartfelt tale of woe. I always had so much woe.

As a teen growing up in a divorced home and then as a young adult trying to pay for university and find love, there was plenty to “bellyache” about—as my mother would call it. She had more to complain about than I did, but somehow she always put my feelings before her own. She’d listen as I talked.

Then she’d start to squirm. It was as if her emotional buttons were being pressed one by one as she listened to my stories of small betrayals. I ignored her unspoken signals. Blindly, I forged ahead, analyzing every conflict in detail. My mother hated conflict. But she “stayed in the game,” as she’d say, and listened patiently—often past her own tipping point.

After the divorce, she’d turned her attention to the second chance that grandchildren offer the bereaved or disappointed. The only trouble was, the grandchildren never came. She was left with a daughter whose emotional needs were still unmet—and who wanted to talk. Looking back, I can’t believe the courage and patience she showed in listening to me all those (uncomfortable) hours.

Then one Christmas the whole family met at my mom and stepfather’s house on the farm. My mother was stirring up her annual stuffing—breadcrumbs, white onion, pepper and celery salt—when my stepfather’s mother made an innocent comment about me not being married—yet. This, of course, was my mother’s long-held dream: that I would marry and have children she could dote on. She’d already bought a cupboard’s worth of clothes and toys at yard sales for when “the grandbabies came.” Despite all life’s setbacks, she was a staunch traditionalist (and so was I).

In that awkward moment, I stood motionless, staring at the red and white tablecloth covered with poinsettias. I searched for something to say, a reason why I wasn’t “married with children”—yet. My mother saw my distress. She read the signals and put down her spatula and walked over to where I stood. She put her arm around my shoulder. On my behalf, she said, “Dayna doesn’t need to be married. She’s perfectly fine how she is.”

That was one of her rare displays of affection. But it was not rare for her to take a stand. Those simple words and that small act of love set me free from my own (and everyone else’s) expectations. In one stroke, she put us both on more solid emotional and psychological ground.

Five years later I walked down the aisle, much to my mother’s joy. Two healthy, active grandchildren were soon there to dote on. And dote she did! Grandchildren are great for those who want to simply love!

She got out the little green wagon that she’d found at a yard sale and she took them to the local ball game. She sat and colored for hours in the solarium and she got down on the floor to play trains. She sewed Christmas stockings for them and stuffed scrapbooks. She created pastel needlepoints for the nurseries. Her fridge and walls were covered with smiling photos. And, of course, she listened to every long tale of joy I shared with her.

I learned a lot about my patient, longsuffering mother by watching her play with her longed-for grandbabies. It was like we both had a second chance at sharing happy memories.

Sadly, my mother died of lung cancer while the children were still young. I miss her very much, but I’m thankful for who she was—a traditionalist who could still support her daughter when she deviated from the norm! I can only hope to parent as well as she did.

~Dayna E. Mazzuca

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