The Gold Minivan

My first car was a gold minivan.

Actually, it was my mother's gold minivan. She loved that thing. I could never understand how a vehicle that smelled gently of curdled milk and potpourri could be so beloved. Now that years of history pave the road between today and my memory of that gold van, I understand a little better. 

By the time I left home, I had graduated to my very own isuzu hombre. If scrappy-doo was a truck, this would be it. When I left for college, I loaded the insubstantial truck bed full of the essentials and left the gold minivan in my hombre's dust. At the time, I was thrilled to see the van's dulled gold sheen in my rearview mirror. 

Fast forward a few years.

Like any young adult, I was confident and dauntless. I decided to join one of our college's fraternities. And because I went to a private university, we were not subject to national regulations. I went through a month of hard physical hazing that was initiated by an all-night ritual complete with calisthenics and exercise in the middle of a swamp. It was delightful. 

The next morning, I woke up to discover that something was not quite right. I was sick in ways that need not be mentioned.  Upon discovering the plight that emerged as a result of the previous evening's adventures, I called my mother who called her sister, who called the pharmacist who called me to inform me that I had medications waiting for me (my aunt is an excellent Dallas internist). 

This is where it gets interesting.

Because rather than respond like any reasonable person and go pick my prescriptions, I decided to delay my well-being in exchange for some all important social activities. Of course, my mother called a number of times to check whether I had yet picked up my medication. The first few times, I answered the phone and told her that I was on my way. 

It turns out that her definition of "on the way" and mine were quite different. The disadvantage of having a physician in the family is that my mom need not worry about privacy laws when it comes to her son. Had I picked up my prescription, this would not have been a problem. Eventually, however, not only did I fail to pick up my medications, I stopped answering my mom's phone calls. 

That probably wasn't the smartest thing to do.

Now remember, these were tender social years. The last thing a college man needed people to think was that his mommy was worried about him. So you can imagine my shock when the day after I stopped answering my phone, I noticed a suspiciously familiar gold minivan pulling up in front of my dorm. Sure enough, the closer the minivan got, the more keenly I was aware of an impending social doom.

So, like any rational young man, the only appropriate response to my mother driving more than four hours on a weekday, leaving my little sisters behind to ensure that I would, in fact, be retreiving my medication was a sudden flare of anger. Jumping in the van (If I'm honest, I'll say it was the look on my mom's face and not my fear of being seen that caused me to jump into the car unbidden), I slammed the door behind me. After the usual, "what are you doing here?", and "I would have gone today!", I yelled, "you have no idea how mad I am at you!"

To which my mother responded, "you have no idea how much I love you!"

That pretty much ended the discussion.

As you might expect, our first stop was at a pharmacy whose staff was pleased to put a face to the name behind the constant phone calls. After I picked up my medication, my mom went back to her hotel and drove home the next day.

This story has become somewhat of a family epic through the years. The details sharpen with each telling; the meanings intensify depending on whose doing the telling. My dad, for example, will recall my mother's resolve when she left the house, and his inability to encourage her to let me learn a lesson on my own. My aunt will recall my mother's concern for a sick son not taking care of herself.

There's no better Mother's Day story than this one for me. Few memories can challenge this one's constant reminder of my mother's passion for her children. Risking rejection, anger, and her son's formidably rebellious nature, she drove an inconvenient 300 miles to make sure I picked up medicine I really did not want to bother with in the first place. The crazy thing is, I know this is the least she would do. 

Not all are so fortunate.

Some have lost mothers before they had an opportunity to create their own memories. Some mothers feel pangs of guilt for having not been at their best as a mom. I'm not a mother, so I cannot fully appreciate the complexities of emotion that accompany motherhood.

What I do know is that shame never edifies. It only breaks down. If you're as a fortunate as I am to have a mother as I do, then celebrate today. Don't hold back your gratitude. But if you're not, be vulnerable with your pain, and don't let the shame or pains of the past keep you from an enriching life in the present with your children, your parents, and your family.

Dr. Mathis Kennington