Years ago, my brother Bob and I decided to visit my mother, who lived in Birmingham, Alabama. I was living in Pennsylvania then, and Bob lived in New York. On the first day there, Bob kept teasing all day, saying that our mother loved me more than him. He would make up numerous silly stories to illustrate the point. Even as a joke, she would never say such a thing. “I love all you boys the same.” She would say her five sons were her highest achievement in life.
That night, Bob and I slept in the guest room, which had two twin beds. After we had gotten in bed, mom came in and began to tuck Bob in. She smoothed out the blanket covering him and tucked it just a little under his legs and body while she told him, like you would to a small child, that she hoped he would have a good night’s sleep. Bob made faces at me the whole time she was tucking him in. When she finished, she looked over at me and then back at Bob. With one quick motion, she grabbed Bob’s covers and pulled them off his bed, putting them on me. She looked over at Bob and said, “Donnie looked cold.” She had a great sense of humor, which every mother needs to raise five boys.
She may have loved us all the same, but she had a way of making each of us feel like the favorite. When I was small, we didn’t have a TV, and our family played games together every night. It was expected that each of us kids would learn how to play chess before we entered first grade. That didn’t mean we were any good, but we knew the moves of each piece and some strategy. Even when I was four, no one would just let me win a game. They would take pieces off their side of the board to give me an advantage but then try as hard as possible to win. My mother was very intelligent and very good at chess. Although I played with everyone in the family, my first win was against my mother, who started the game with very few pieces on her side of the board. It was a great victory, which the entire family celebrated at supper. It would be some time before I had a win without being given an advantage.
She and I shared a love of art and going to art galleries and museums. She could see art in just about anything. She would talk about anything one of her kids wanted to talk about. She told me a lot about girls, and I spent a lot of time saying, “Really?” She tried to teach me to dance, but I suppose every life needs its failure. She loved me during my failures as much as she loved me in my successes. She laughed with me during the fun times and held me when I was sad. Step by step, as I grew up, she was with me. She tried never to take me faster than I was ready to go but encouraged me to keep advancing. There was nothing I could do so badly that she would reject me.
My mother went to be with the Lord years ago, but I have not been left alone. The Lord is my mother and father to me today, tolerantly with me in my failures. The Lord loves me even more than my mother did. Even as an old man, he patiently takes me step by step to where I am called to be.
The Lord has been saying to me over the last couple of weeks, “Come be alone with me. Let me teach you how to pray.” This seems to be the next step for me. I thought I knew how to pray. Obviously, I have more to learn, and maybe there will be a new adventure.
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