Today is my mom's birthday. She is 65. I have never known her to lie about her age or pretend to be anything other than the age she is, and that is inspiring.
I did not see her today. I saw her yesterday. And here is why.
Yesterday was Monday. The day before that was Sunday. Previous to Sunday, it was Saturday, or as we call it, Shabbat.
But it begins back in September of 2017, which is when the remainder of the year was full of promise. Children returned to formal education, the hope of autumn's death was sunny and crisp, and I had mapped out a handful of house projects to finish before winter came.
I was hopeful. Pragmatic and hopeful. A tenuous balance, but a doable one.
Then the floods came. Literally. Due to a sequence (or series) of sad (or unfortunate) happenstances (or events), a flood had literally come. Slowly. Slowly from a leaking aquarium tank. Slowly enough that it should have been caught, and for that, I take full responsibility in pointing the finger at my wife for not picking up on it. Anyway, this slow flood took out two floors in two rooms - a bathroom and a bedroom. So plans and priorities started changing.
And then it felt like floods of the more metaphoric variety came, slowly and surely, and began erasing the hope that had been there. A slow descent into many things going...differently.
In this case, differently is a word I am using as an example of a euphemism.
Nobody died, we kept our health and friends and each other and made many fine memories and moments, but the hope of improving, one step at a time, parts of our lives that had seemed doable a short time before seemed to be disappearing into the mud.
And then more water after Christmas. A leaking dishwasher refusing to drain. To YouTube I went for tutorials and help from strangers. And from my father-in-law, who loaned me a couple T25 bits and a few hours of a Saturday night for some moral support and company as I laboriously walked through potential problems, removing one piece at a time, cleaning filters, hoses, and lines. Finally got it back together. Felt good. Ran a load. Looking good. Then headed down to work. Non-house work; work I actually get paid for and need to do. To bed at 7.30am. A new day dawns.
And a flooded dishwasher awaits. A flood that has wiped out a portion of the kitchen floor. Soaked, sopping, drenched. Yank the whole appliance out.
Discouragement. Total discouragement. Do I deserve to feel this? No. So many people who live in far worse circumstances and deal with far greater challenges and difficulties.
But this is also our reality; the reality of anyone and everyone who is trying to survive and care for their loved ones. The reality that there are those who have it better, and those who have it worse, and you can recognize and acknowledge and still be discouraged.
I was discouraged. Overwhelmed. One step forward, five steps back. Tired, physically and emotionally. Too discouraged to even complain or talk about it.
My parents came up Saturday night to hang out and watch Schitt's Creek with us. We didn't actually plan that, but it worked out that way, and was fun.
My parents pulled me aside, which I guess they can do occasionally, as they are still my parents, and informed me that:
A) we are getting you a dishwasher
B) we are sticking around to help you put it in.
I argued. Not fake argue, as in no, no, let me get my wallet out... but real argue. We'll be fine. I'll get the dishwasher going, it's not the top priority right now, etc.
They listened with bemused expressions and said:
We are getting you a dishwasher.
I don't know what all they've done for other people. I don't know what all they've done for my siblings. I don't know all they've done for many others. I just know what they've done for me, and it's a lot.
It's one reason why I can never vote for, support, or respect the current President. I understand what it means to be gifted something. To be given something I don't deserve and didn't work for.
I understand what it means to benefit from being lucky. From being given something; something that many people don't have the expectation of receiving. A lot of preachers like to talk about the whole God and grace example, and that's great. That's the big example.
But this is my personal example. I have benefitted my whole life from things I don't deserve. I have tried to live with integrity and kindness, as many people do, but I have not done anything extraordinary to deserve special treatment or to be the recipient of the type of generosity I have experienced over the course of my life.
And here I was again, on the receiving end.
I said yes, and they won.
They headed out to pick one up - our children in tow - and returned hours later. My mom's birthday is today, so they had taken a couple days off work to enjoy...
...to enjoy a relaxing Monday helping install a dishwasher. My dad brought his magical bottomless toolbar of tools that fix anything, and what he didn't have he was able to dig up in our magical bottomless garage of stuff, and together he and I got it in.
As I lay with head cranked under the kitchen sink, catching a glimpse of the rest of our home from this painful vantage point, I thought back ten years to all the times my dad, or my mom, or often both, have helped us.
I thought of the mini-birthday holiday my mom sacrificed the lion's share of in order to help her son get a dishwasher in. I thought of the dollars they sunk into a dishwasher for us. Her birthday week.
Her insistence that this is how she wanted to spend her time.
My to-do list is still long. But sometimes, sometimes...getting that one thing that seems to be a catalyst for discouragement off that list is just what's needed for that little shot of inspiration/adrenaline/hope. Whatever it might be called. It made facing those other items a little more doable.
And what did I do to deserve it?
I am a child. A child of them.
I'll go straight on the nose for a rare minute: I can't help making the bigger parallel, as many of those pastor-people do, to the whole undeserving nature of grace and how it relates to God. How little we deserve, yet how much we can be given.
I'll also go straight political for a sec: when I look at my life and the onslaught of grace, of kindness, of generosity that I have been given, time and time again for no reason other than being born into and being surrounded by people who have exhibited those traits to me, then I think:
I will support leaders and politicians who aren't afraid to recognize and acknowledge those two ideas: grace and luck. The mandate to help each other out and not pretend like we've done so much on our own. What a slap in the face it would be for me to pretend like the successes I've had have come solely - or even primarily - because of my own work ethic and choices.
The great leaders and mentors recognize that we are here to help, to serve, and graciously, gracefully, build hope and build others up.
My parents have exhibited that so many times, and we have a working dishwasher again.
Birthdays. Thank you, mom, for the birthday present. Happy 65. The gifts you have given the world make it a better place every day.
And with our new dishwasher, a cleaner place too.