I got home just before midnight. In spite of the time, my mother was awake, still tending to all the duties of a homemaker. I sat with her in the kitchen as I tried to hide my drunkenness under the Christmas lights still strewn about the place. The cat stirred at the sound of my voice, walked up, and collapsed at my feet. I make her dance lightly on her paws while we began to speak of all the things we had learned from the passing year. The early morning hours waning on as the cat silently resigned to her fate as an unwilling marionette.
We speak of gratitude. How the practice of giving thanks fully eclipses what we feel we are lacking when we’ve conditioned ourselves to be grateful for all the things we do have. The things often overlooked, taken for granted, or held to a standard of expectations; when these things we should hold in daily gratitude are anything but a standard–they are a duty to be continually committed to. And it is the commitment to these duties that is the spine of real love; all else is just brittle infatuation and would snap in twain under the slightest weight.
Finally, I let the cat escape. I tell my mother I look forward to the future with optimistic and keen vision. Her face is swollen and beaming with the countenance of a proud parent. I realize right then how much more I want to strive to put that look on her face. I look into her watery eyes as they shimmer red and green from the holiday glow and tell her I am proud of myself too. Going so far as to claim I know what I am worth, because I have come to love myself.
She pauses. The maternal pride that was there only moments before suddenly stricken from her face and I have no idea how to get it back. “Son,” she says stoically, searching for the words. “You cannot say you truly value yourself when you…drink the way you do. That is NOT loving yourself. If you loved yourself, you wouldn’t keep doing this to you. You’ve seen how addiction hits this family. People have drank themselves to death, and others are still doing the same thing, right now, in spite of all of that…”
I could only nod. I was unable to look at her, because she was truth and I was still full of so many lies. The eyes of mothers, how they see everything in spite of our best efforts.
I don’t know how long I was unable to answer, but sometime between the then and now she asked if she could hug me. Something about my face must have said I wanted anything but to be touched and I still have no idea how to take that goddamn mask off. I nod behind the veneer I hide behind.
“You are amazing,” she says into my shoulder as her arms wrap around me. “And so, so loved. Please know that.”
“I know,” I stammered as I returned her embrace. “I will be better. I will.”
This is my duty. To be better. To be here. For her and the others whom I love. I thanked my mother, because I was grateful. Suddenly, I was aware that I lacked nothing.