10,000 days. There are mornings when that number seems infinite, stretching out beyond a horizon I can’t visualize and then there are mornings when it feels anything but infinite and I feel an urgency to make sure the people I love know how much I love them. Today was one of those mornings. When I went in to wake up my 8 year old and was enjoying the groggy, cuddly moments of morning with him, he rubbed his eyes and asked; “will you still be alive when I am your age?” And with that… those 10,000 days didn’t seem so infinite. The truth is, I don’t know. I am 48, he is 8. Will I be here when I am 88? Maybe. Hopefully. But I am here now, so how can I make the most of each day? How can I make the days right now count for something? So that when I am not here, when he’s 48, he can still feel loved?
Today as I thought about this, I thought about all the gifts my mother has given me and continues to give me. And, it made me feel better about the finite reality. The biggest gift she gave me was her time. I saw something the other day that said: Children spell love T.I.M.E. and in thinking about my son’s question, this really resonated for me.
My Mom had a lot on her plate when I was little. My sister was terminally ill and my Mom was her #1 care-taker. She doled out countless pills and administered physical therapy 3 times a day to help her loosen up her lungs and breathe better. She made most of the food we ate from scratch and made sure that my sister had plenty of the good stuff to eat so that her little body could manage. All of this took time. Tremendous amounts of it. But despite that, my mother always had time for me and my younger brother. My sister was my mother’s full time job – in terms of commitment it was the equivalent of what I have with my job – more than 40 hours a week my energy goes to my job. My mom’s gift of T.I.M.E was the best gift my mother could have shared with me. She was able to find time for me because she made good choices with the time she had to work with.
My Mom cared less about doing the dishes than she did about making bread.
Our kitchen was constantly cluttered with the makings of dinner or the remainders of breakfast. It was comfortable and welcoming and filled with the amazing smells that come from something delicious being pulled out of the oven.
I can’t count the number of cups of tea that I drank sitting across from her at our kitchen table while she kneaded bread – dressed in her apron, rollers in her hair, dough and flour in her hands and up to her elbows and all over the table. She sang nonsense songs with us as she kneaded when we were really little, as I got older, she helped me work out any “mean girl” issues I was suffering and let me punch down the bread after the first rising. There were days when I would come home from school and the table would be laden with some project that she had made up for me and my sister to do – she wasn’t just spending time with me, she was giving us the gift of time together. During her time with us in the kitchen she made us feel worthy, special, loved.
When I was 8 she was 34, had I asked her then if she would still be here when I was her age – she may have had the confidence to say, “Yes.” – and she is; and I am so lucky – and I am filled with the gifts that she has given me. Will I be here when my youngest son is 48? I still don’t know. But, I am here now. I can pass on her gifts.
And I will spend more of my 10,000 days caring less about the dishes and more about the time in the kitchen that can be spent making my children feel worthy, special and loved.