81: Always Show Up

81: Always Show Up

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Always Show Up

Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left you.

~Author Unknown

I rolled over in bed to look at the clock. I needed to get up if I was going to be on time for work. I’d pulled what the resort called a double shift the day before—5:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., until everything was washed, wiped down, swept up and stored away for the next morning’s crew at the summer vacation resort where I served as an event waitress.

I worked there during their two big months—June and July—and we’d served over 400 people the day before. The soles of my feet felt sore and puffy and my back was stiff, but I was due back for a single shift and I needed to get up. I put my head back down on the pillow and considered my options, and produced the most obvious one a self-centered, pampered sixteen-year-old girl was likely to choose.

I would simply call in sick. I would apologize for not making it to work today, but I figured they’d be fine without my services just this one day.

My mother walked into my room.

“You have to work today, don’t you, Bec? You better be getting up or you’re going to be late.” She stood there watching me, not showing any sign of leaving me to my state of exhaustion from all my hard work the prior day.

“I don’t think I’ll go in today. I’m too tired,” I said. “I’m going to call in sick.”

I felt a slight tinge of guilt, maybe even a bit of premonition because as soon as the words were out of my mouth, the expression on her face changed, and it wasn’t in my favor.

“What do you mean you’re calling in?” she demanded, her eyes hard and glaring. And I knew this whole scene was far from over. It’s funny how even a sixteen-year-old does know deep down she’s botched this one.

She didn’t miss a beat. “When you accepted that job, you were telling those people you wanted that job,” she said. “You were telling them you would show up and work for them when they asked you to. You were telling them you would respect their giving you that position and that they could count on you.”

My mother didn’t yell at me to make her point, nor did she swear or threaten me with some bogus form of punishment should I not hoist myself out of that bed. She should have been a lawyer because she used the best weapon there is: shame mixed in with a healthy dose of blunt honesty.

But she wasn’t done with me yet, this woman who produced three homemade meals a day for her family of six, and who did all of the laundry and ironing, made the beds, baked and canned, cleaned the house and washed the windows; this woman who walked wherever she needed to go in our small town because she didn’t drive a car. The same woman who went to business school to become a legal secretary, but instead fell in love, got married and ended up with four children to feed, clean up after and raise, but who never got to call in sick when she was tired.

“You know, Bec,” she continued, “there are so many times I wish all I had to do was get up, splash a little cold water on my face and head into class or to a job.” Her wistful expression drove her point to the center of the bulls-eye, and I saw her in a different light, and I knew I had no right to call in sick simply because I was a little on the tired side that morning.

My mother considered a job outside the home something to be appreciated, even if it was just a summer waitressing job.

“Now, get yourself out of bed and into work.”

I did, and I survived.

She taught me many things through the years, either by example, or by silence at the right time, or through our late-night girl chats over hot cups of tea that we shared so many, many late evenings when I’d come home to visit as a married woman with children of my own.

The scene presented itself full circle years later. There I was, a mother of two preteen daughters and your typical working wife and mom. We’d finished dinner and I was cleaning up in the kitchen when I commented to the family that I wished I could take tomorrow off from work because I was feeling extra tired that particular evening.

As if on cue from Providence, my younger daughter offered what I’m sure seemed the most logical response to such a request.

“Why don’t you just call in sick tomorrow then, Mom?”

And I had to wonder if my mother was just around the corner, listening to see how I would respond to that one.

I think she would have approved.

“I can’t do that, honey,” I told her. “When you tell someone you’re going to work for them, you need to show up, even if you’re a little tired.”

To this day, both of my daughters remember and honor that tenet my mother drilled into my head so long ago.

~R’becca Groff

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