D Gregory Smith

My Mother's Son

Filed By D Gregory Smith | April 26, 2011 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay sons, life, love, moms, Mother's Day, mothers, Sherrie Smith

First, I want to thank everyone for the marvelous messages of support during the last week. Losing my mom was/is pretty rough. Even though it was sudden, painless, flower.jpgand she died in the arms of my father, a man she loved more than almost anything. All in all, a great way to go.

If you knew her at all, you knew she was a survivor, a character who didn't like to be bored, wouldn't take any shit - but dished it out beautifully - and loved to eat, to laugh, and tell stories with the best of them. She and my dad loved it when we were all home, or all together somewhere. We all like being around each other and that says a lot. You probably know that the apples don't fall far from the tree; her children are all like that in one way or another.

I loved my mother in ways that are complicated and extremely simple at the same time. Most gay sons could probably say the same thing. She took the hard route when it came to my coming out - she struggled, she argued, she cried - but when she got it, she defended me and protected me and accepted me (and my partner) completely. I just wish all kids had parents with such passion and commitment to their children. I was blessed.

She was my best friend and the biggest gadfly I endured. She cheered me on when I needed it, cheered me up when I felt like shit and told me exactly what she thought if she felt I was making a mistake. Well, she told me what she thought no matter what I did, said or thought myself.

And as she got older, she did it so much more gracefully. She didn't intrude as much as she simply reminded. And after 45 years of knowing her style, I really came to depend on her perspective in ways I wouldn't have thought possible 20 years ago.

She was a gentle woman with babies and old people. She simply loved them, and they loved her. I'm not sure why. But there were a few times I was at my wits' end with my mother and then I saw her interact with an old lady or a baby and it reminded me that deep inside, she had an immense capacity for love that her manner sometimes became a smokescreen to protect. She also endured pain in a way that I was amazed by. That smokescreen also helped shield us from the hurt and the painful physical issues she navigated daily.

I never doubted her love for me. I don't think any of us did, even when it was not so easy. We mostly saw through the smokescreen, as did all those close to her. She loved fiercely. She was often deeply offended at injustice in the world and she did what she could to help out. If you were a friend, or family, or a stranger in need, she always did what she could; it was her at her best.

I like to think I got some of that.

As I bless her presence in my life - now changed a bit - I am so grateful for the many things I have been given by my family. My brother, sister, father and mother have all left indelible marks on my heart and in my life- good ones, fantastic ones. And I will always be grateful. As I grow older, those marks become lines that intertwine with my own loves and ways of seeing the world, being there for others and letting them be there for me. That's just the way it works. For you, too, I imagine.

But for me, it mostly started with Mom. The love I felt as a child didn't diminish over time, it just changed a bit. She always did the best she could in my best interest. And it was important to her that I knew she was interested in my life. And accepting, even of the things she didn't quite understand. She loved Ken like she loved the people my siblings married- they were family and that was that. She trusted me because she raised me to be a conscientious person, someone who acted out of compassion, not spite. We fought sometimes, because she taught me not to give up, ever. Even with her, especially if I felt I needed to make my case. She gave me more gifts that I'm sure I'll notice as life goes on. Thet's what I'm looking forward to.

This firstborn son had a unique relationship with his mother. It's like that with almost every mother and child, but no two are ever alike. That woman, my mother, will be forever intertwined in every relationship I have - just as she always has been.

I'll just notice it more now.

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You were lucky to have had some an incredible, strong, loving woman in your life supporting you. What she gave you sounds as if it's in every fiber of your being.

Rick Sutton | April 26, 2011 1:04 PM

Kleenex alert.

Eric Payne | April 26, 2011 4:44 PM

Just over 30 months ago, my cousin David lost his wife, JoAnn, to breast cancer. David was the only family member who thought of me when my father was taken ill ten years ago. David tracked me down through a few of my sisters, calling me out of the blue (I hadn't seen, or spoken to him in over 30 years), to let me know Dad was hospitalized, and not expected to live through that weekend.

Two years ago, on February 4, cancer took my mother. Two years ago, on Mother's Day, my cousin David and his mother - my father's sister - took it upon themselves to reconcile my father and me. My aunt invited my father to her home, in Beckley, WV. My cousin David invited Bill and I to his home in Beckley. Through their efforts, I was able to reach a peace with my father after over two decades of complete estrangement. On September 15, 2010, on what would have been my mother's 71st birthday, cancer claimed my 80 year old father.

Six months to the day later, my 59-year old cousin David died of cirrhosis of the liver. When JoAnn died after nearly 36 years of marriage, David climbed into a bottle and never managed to get out. Just over a month later, I still think about him every day... both angry at him for drinking himself to death, and incredibly sad he's no longer here for me to just pick up the phone and call.

My condolences to you, Greg. I know what you're going through; I can't begin to list the little things I just walk into, nearly every day, that remind me of those I've lost over the last two years... and how difficult it can sometimes be to take those little things in the right light - to make those things remind us of the people we've lost and how much they meant to us, instead of clinging to those things as a way to continue the hurt and pain of their absence.

I am so sorry my brother. My mom died before I could admit I was gay but I wish she had been alive. She too would have struggled but, like your mom she would have loved me unconditionally. I pray you the comfort of our caring God as you rest in His hands.