Monday, November 07, 2005

My Hero

Her question was a homework assignment: "Who is your hero?"

DD#2 asked me as I walked over to the kitchen counter to drop off my lunch bag. Several names ran through my head, most of them people whom she's never met. And, I quickly realized, many of these people weren't really my hero. They were teachers, mentors, guides. To me, a hero is something bigger.

After a moment, I answered, "My mother."

She didn't ask me for my reasons right then and the conversation moved on. When she did, we were in the car, on the way to school. And I found it difficult to express my reasons in words she'd understand.

My flip answer is, "Because she raised six kids and still speaks in complete sentences." That's true, but not nearly complete.

"Because she's my guide to getting older," I finally answered.

"What do you mean?" DD#2 asked.

So I told DD#2 a bit about her grandmother's life. Some of it she knew, like the fact that my parents lost two children--one shortly after birth, one in utero. But what I pointed out is that didn't stop my mother from living. My mother once told me she's done more things after the age of 40 than she did her first 40 years, which was quite reassuring when I faced that particular birthday.

"She still reads. She's still active in the community: garden club, ICF. She goes to the symphony. Even though she doesn't drive anymore, she takes the bus. She's going to be 80 this winter and she's planning on flying to England on her own this spring."

"But your sister is there," DD#2 pointed out.

"True. But Gran still has to get there. That's 8,000 miles she'll be traveling." I looked over at my daughter. "Many people would have given up; stayed close to home. Gran hasn't. Do you understand?"

"Kind of," she said.

"Well, I want to be like that. I want to keep living and keep growing. Grandpere was like that, too. So I had two good examples."

DD#2 is 12. I know I didn't appreciate the magnitude of what my mother had accomplished until I was in my mid-20's. I mean, she was Mom, right? And she just did what all mothers did--or were supposed to do. Until I had been out and about in the world, met other mothers, and, most importantly, became a mother myself, I didn't know how difficult it could be. She makes growing older look easy, even the parts that aren't.