By Teddy McCullough
Growing up, everyone has an idol, role model, or superhero.
For most of my life, that person had been my Grandma Joyce. She inspired me; instilled my love of politics and public service; and imparted advice, wisdom and life skills. She made such a profound impact on my life that I believed no other person could match it — so her death, a year ago, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease was especially heartbreaking.
But in the grand spirit of my Grandma, death also has proved to be enlightening. I now realize that though she had a vitally important hand in raising me, she was actually more of my touching stone than my bedrock, more of my diversion than my constant. More superhero than everyday hero. Those more substantial — and, ultimately, more significant — titles? Turns out they actually belong to my mom.
Over the past year, our family has dealt with crisis after crisis and tragedy after tragedy. The near-constant turmoil has practically forced me to examine my own life, and to consider all of the highs and lows and the people who have helped make me the person I am today. No matter how big or small the role they’ve played, they’re part of the mosaic of my life for a reason.
Which brings me back to you, Mom.
The intent of this letter is to let you know how much you mean to me and also to inspire others to take more than a few minutes to reflect on their own lives and to consider all of the people we take for granted. They are often the people who show us how to express our true emotions and thoughts with confidence. They’re the people who show us how to love the unloveable.
They’re people like you, Mom. You’ve been there for it all: the birthdays; the last-minute homework assignments; the football games and golf matches; the viola recitals; the teen angst; and the panicked phone calls because I have misplaced something important — and only you know where to find it. You’ve also been called to wear an amazing number of hats. You’re the guardian, the best friend, the provider, the comforter, the chief advocate, the party organizer, the counselor …
I believe everyone deserves a mother’s care, and I’m glad you shower Mattie, Patience and so many other lost souls who simply need a helping hand with unconditional love, too. Having someone to support and listen to you is such an incredible gift. I really do get it now, Mom: you truly are my No. 1 fan.
Sure, there have been times when I questioned your actions, but I now understand that everything you did was purely out of love. You said yes as often as you possibly could, but were never afraid to tell me no — and that was good for me, too. From playing instruments and experimenting with various forms of art to having an imaginary friend who just happened to resemble the Hunchback of Notre Dame, you let me be expressive and creative.
You showed me how to treat others with kindness, compassion and love. But you also showed me how to be strong and stick up for myself while still loving and respecting others. I’m still learning from you every single day. And I promise to teach my children the same lessons you have taught me and to show them unwavering love, too.
I know I haven’t been the best son in the world. I’ve called you names; I’ve upset you; I’ve given you headaches. It’s unfortunately part of the many phases every child experiences growing up — I think. OK, at least I hope. I’ve reduced my own life to the “Can You Carry Me? Phase,” the “Ew, Don’t Kiss Me Phase,” the “You’re So Dumb Phase” — and, the one I’m in now, which is the “You’re The Greatest Phase.”
So, thanks, Mom. Thanks for accepting my failures. Thanks for never letting me say never, no matter the challenges. Thanks for believing in me even when I haven’t believed in myself. Thanks for being the person with whom I think to celebrate good news and for being the first person on whom I can count in times of profound sadness and difficulty.
Don’t ever doubt that you didn’t do enough for me. I hope you never have any regrets about how you raised me. You are more than I could have asked for in a mom. You are beautiful, strong, tough, supportive, compassionate, generous and loving. You are, and always will be, my idol, my role model, and my superhero.
With endless love,