All Grown Up

My parents on their wedding day, looking ridiculously young.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, so naturally I spent some time with my mom helping homeless families pack up and move. She didn’t seem bothered by the fact that I forgot to get her a card.

There’s no punchline. My mom serves as our church’s coordinator for Family Promise of Gwinnett, which means that two or three times a year she’s responsible for transforming our church gymnasium into a home for people who don’t have one. She wrangles volunteers, schedules meals, provides transportation, and just in general spends time with families who are going through a hard time.

And she excels at it.

Obviously she has a lot of help with the details – we happen to have a lot of wonderful volunteers at our church, and they buy in on Family Promise like almost nothing else. I think it’s the idea of seeing transformative work right in front of you, of being able to see our church’s faith lived out. But at the center of all of these volunteers is my mom, joking and laughing and loving every person involved.

My dad is the silent partner in this venture; he’s the behind-the-scenes fella who makes sure that what needs to be done gets done. And to watch the two of them work together is to realize what makes their 38 year-old marriage so effective: they are as perfectly balanced as the Flying Wallendas. Watching them also reminds me why our home was so popular as a child–people just love them and are drawn towards them.

It’s weird as an adult to look at your parents through an adult lens. I often find myself looking at them as if I were still under their roof and their rules (a frequently quoted maxim during my youth); in fact, I often look at the entire world as if I were still a youth easily brushed to the side. It’s only been recently that I’ve settled into my adulthood, and part of that transition has been looking at my parents as peers.

Of course, my parents had me young (Dad was 22, Mom 20), so in a sense they’ve always felt like peer leaders; that’s not to discount their parental authority, because they had that in spades. (I still tell people my dad would whip my butt if he heard me being disrespectful to an elder, because he would.) But it’s more to acknowledge what I’ve been realizing: that the journey of parenthood is the simultaneous growing up of your kids and yourself.

So in a sense, realizing my own adulthood is to realize theirs as well. And what magnificent people they are: kind, generous, hysterical, fun to be around, genuinely welcoming, tireless caregivers to grandkids and grandparents alike, faithful, fun-loving, and wise beyond their respective 58 and 56 years. Watching them this past week, as they served the families at church and my own family, was to see the rare beauty of human nature, fully expressed through the grace of God.

Far from the people they were when I was a child, my parents are all grown up now, which means that I am too. It also means that one day the process will move to the next step, when we all move up a role in the cycle of life: I will become the caregiver, they will become the cared-for. It is a role I will relish because they have shown me how to carry it well.

I didn’t see or speak to my mother after our morning together; she had some Family Promise duties to fulfill, then went home to crash. I had church and then time with Rachel’s family. But despite not being together, I felt closer to her and my dad than I ever had before, in part because I felt in my heart the magnitude of what their lives mean to me and to others.

It was probably the best Mother’s Day we’ve ever had.

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