My mother turned 80 yesterday and, while celebrating that honor with her, I couldn’t help but remember some of the stories that I had been told by other people about their upbringing. I can remember being shocked and saddened when more than one boyfriend told me of his upbringing with alcoholic, abusive parents. Or parents that were divorced when they were children, leaving brothers and sisters to “choose sides” between mom and dad.
Or the parents of my high school friend who allowed all of her classmates to come over and smoke and drink - and, when telling many of us in her class that she used to “skinny dip” in the pool with her father, didn’t think that just maybe, there wasn’t something normal and wholesome about that. The boyfriend who, at 16, took sides and lived with his dad - only to be burned out of the apartment they shared because his dad was an alcoholic who fell asleep with lit cigarettes. Parents who bounced from job to job and apartment to apartment, children in tow. Parents who taught their children no shame, no morals and no ultimate goal-oriented lessons. Only dark memories of abuse and fires and drunken moments.
I confess to still being shocked and saddened for the people I know who have lived this life. I’m not sure how they ever matured into adulthood and, while some of them have attained the ripe age of 60, adulthood missed them and they remain, to this day, the lost child.
I thought of all of this for some reason while my mom took her first bite of chocolate cheesecake on this, her 80th year. And I thought of all the other things that make looking back on my childhood so positive. Being raised in that loving and warm family - where the children always came first - is something that I still marvel at. Each of us knowing that we were wanted and loved as children and as adults. Never, ever being pitted against each other.
We had the best of everything, We wanted for nothing. When the skateboard first hit the market back in 1963, we were the first kids on the block with bright red boards. Those gave way to bicycles and ultimately cars. The driveway basketball hoop and throwing the perfect spiral football into my dad’s waiting hands. My brothers, working out on the gym equipment in the garage and hanging from trees in the backyard. The first heartbreak that sent us running to mom, the first car accident, the marriages, children and far too many pets to name. And when I think of it all, my fondest thought is of my parents - always smiling and always encouraging. My mom has the patience of a saint and my dad, defending me against a teacher who decided I was a communist. They took things in stride and raised us the same way.
We were far from being perfect children. But we were just lucky enough to have parents who knew that their children had limitations and did not force issues in order to live vicariously through us.
She turned 80 yesterday. And she put a tiny little bit of chocolate cheesecake on the tip of my dad’s nose so that she could kiss it off...
I confess - I am an adult child of well-adjusted parents.