When I was 18 and went away to college, Mom gave me lots of advice. You know, always keep a dime in your shoe in case you need to call a cab. Don't take a cigarette from anybody because it might have marijuana in it. You know, real useful stuff.
My college roommate had her share of advice from home, too, and for awhile we thought we should write a book with all the tips we had from our parents but didn't intend to ever follow.
But the older I get, the wiser some of the things my mother has said to me over the years seem.
Once, long after I and my four brothers had all left home and were earning our own way in the world, more or less successfully, she remarked, "You never stop being a parent." I took it to mean that she still worried about all of us, whether we would lose our jobs, save enough for retirement, be happy in our relationships, and so on. It was prophetic, as I learned as my own child grew to adulthood and began earning her way in the world. When she comes home, she's still my baby, just as when I visit my parents, I still must bear some resemblance to the little girl of so long ago. The watchfulness, the worrying never quite goes away.
The other piece of advice my mother gave me was, "It's never too late to try to be happy." I've thought of that often, too. Nobody's life is perfect. Everyone hits a rough patch when it seems like there's no hope of things turning around. But once that's over, Mom seemed to be telling me that it was time to smile and move on, rather than dwell on how tough life is.
Each piece of advice was dispensed casually, with no special context to mark the comments as important. Maybe we were doing dishes or peeling potatoes together. I don't even remember.
I just remember her words and how wise they have turned out to be.
Thanks, Mom, more than I can ever say.