Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity
- Simone Weil
As far as I can tell, time is an important part of the equation of unconditional love. Without it, my mother would not have put together a special basket in her pantry labeled "DS" containing his own crackers and breads and snacks for whenever he comes to visit, or coconut-based ice cream in the fridge at her house on any given day for him so that he won't feel left out when everyone else is having ice cream that he can't have, or found a way to make home made fudge and fudge sauce for him. Without time, there could have been no thought given for saving our special childhood treasures so that we could pass them along to our own kids: my Where The Fern Grows books and Mortimer Snerd doll and Pee Wee Herman board game and music boxes that play beautiful but unrecognizable tunes and Quiga boards and Tarot cards and tigers eye rocks tumbled smooth by Dad. Time spent willingly then yielded miles and miles of memories, a road map of happiness through my past. That's what my mother and father have passed on to me: the gift of time. They gave me time and showed me how to give mine. I remember playing catch with Dad in the backyard for hours. No matter how much he sweated or how bad his knees hurt, he caught my pitches until I was done practicing. He never missed a game, even if I was on the bench. He played chess with my little brother, took my big brother to the rifle range, brought middle brother to the soccer field. He gave us his time.
Everywhere I look, I see it. Every memory I have, it's there. I remember one very specific conversation with my mother in which we discussed every single person in my family - each of their strengths and limitations, their dysfunctions and behaviors - including but not limited to ourselves, members of my father's extended family, all of my mother's siblings, all of my grandmother's siblings, and each one of my fifteen cousins. My mother remembers that conversation too. We think I was about twelve years old. It wasn't gossip. It was bonding over curiosity and truths shared. We talked that day for hours, just because I wanted to know. It certainly wasn't the only conversation we ever had like that, but probably because of the length of time we spent talking that day, it stands out in my mind as being significant.
My mother put all of her time into us, her children and her family. And that made her genuinely happy. I never doubted that as a child; that my mother loved being our mother. If she hadn't had issues conceiving, she would have had more children, which was why she adopted MB (Middle Brother). She wanted more children. And having more children never took away her willingness or ability to give each and every one of us what we needed. My mother could have had ten biological children, and I know I still would have felt the same. As it was, she had four children of her own and cared for dozens of others over the years.
My mother can do anything: she is clever and insightful and creative. DH has always been in awe of how much my mother is able to do. She sews and paints and cooks and gardens and builds things. She doesn't flinch an eye at picking up a power tool, or climbing a ladder, or driving a truck with wheels that are taller than she is. Once, when she was giving DH a haircut, he asked her, "Is there anything you can't do?" My mom paused, scissors in hand, contemplating. She started cutting again and said, "Well, I can't sing opera." Aside from that, I've always known my mother could do anything. Absolutely anything. She's the strongest person I know. I would trust her with my life. I would trust her with what is the most important thing to me in the whole world: the lives of my children.
Growing up, I knew several adults who came from backgrounds of severe abuse and dysfunction; they were contemporaries and peers of my parents, who said they had wished she could have been their mother. Some of my friends often said the same.
And what I always come up with is that the one thing that was always present was my parent's choice to give us their time, willingly and joyfully. My parents don't do much of anything without thinking about their children and grandchildren. They are selfless and kind and generous.