The siren call takes many forms. But the intent is unmistakable.
And when the call goes up, so does Heather. To get Missy some more tea. To hunt up some art supplies. To listen to a question, or unlace a pair of shoes, or smile at how Missy has dressed herself with two odd socks and an inside-out shirt.
It’s all in the job description. Even if it’s not necessarily the traditional job.
For our developmentally disabled ward Missy, “Mom” has always been more of a job description than a literal relationship. Her own birth mother, Heather’s grandma, died 10 years ago, three years before Heather and I became Missy’s guardians and caregivers. Missy has certainly never forgotten her, something we’re reminded of each April when she becomes a little sad and quiet around the time Grandma Val passed.
But Missy – who sometimes seems to be 4, sometimes 14, and sometimes 44, depending on the situation – takes a very practical approach to life. If you are living with her, loving her, and providing her with the care she needs, you are “Mom.” Sometimes regardless of gender – I’ve been “Mom” a few times in the grocery store (along with “Daddy,” “He,” and many times “Frank,” the name of her late father).
The more I think about it, the more I figure Missy has it exactly right. If you are taking on Mom’s role, you are Mom. Never mind the genes. Never mind the spot on the family tree. Never mind how a dozen dictionaries define the word.
Wil Wheaton once said that being a nerd isn’t about what you love, it’s about how you love it. I think you could say something similar about being a mom – it’s not who you care for, it’s about how you care for them.
And so, mothers everywhere, by any name and description – each year, Mother’s Day is for you, too.
You may be raising the children you brought into this world yourself.
You may be raising a family that’s more blended than a Dairy Queen blizzard, with “halfs” and “steps” and other prefixes that only matter to a genealogist.
You may be the guardian to someone who needs your care and attention to get through the day, whatever their age.
You may be the grown child who has suddenly had to become the parent to a parent, keeping a heart-wrenching watch that could never be fully described to another.
For you, and for the many others besides – you have claimed the name. You have taken up the mantle. You have assumed the duty with all its care, pain, and sudden crises at 3 o’clock in the morning.
You are Mom. And Mother’s Day belongs to you. (Heck, every day belongs to you. But Hallmark and FTD have to make their money somewhere.)
So this day and every day, thank you.
It’s not enough. Somewhere between “Stop yelling at the dog!” and “Why are you being so quiet?”, you get taken for granted. That’s the way of most good things in life – we assume they’re just there, invisible and vital as oxygen, until the moment reminds us how vital, how essential.
And in that moment, we don’t care what anyone calls you.
You are Mom.
And that’s enough.
Thank you, Heather my love.
Thank you, all.