My mother seems to get more shrewd every birthday -- one of which is today.
As a cynical white male in his 30s, I should be convinced that I know everything, and I notice that I am resentful when almost anyone clues me in to a compelling observation or bit of information that, if I were more acute, I would have long ago made or found myself.
But not my mother.
I can think of two times in the recent past that conversations with her have resulted in a shock to the frontal lobes: “Good God! She’s right! Why hadn’t I thought of that?” that has me seeing the world differently and gives me a sudden need to investigate, to know, to act. (This subsides.)
When the capture of Saddam Hussein was confirmed by DNA testing, my mother wondered how, if the tests take so long, his identity was confirmed so quickly. She wondered if he hadn’t been held for longer than officials were admitting, possibly to make the announcement of his capture more dramatic and to keep conspiracy theories from forming. “Good God!” I said. It’s a minor point, and easily answered -- results are slowed by backlogs and bureaucracy, most likely, not by the slowness of the tests themselves -- but it unnerved me, and I confess I still don’t know that the easiest answer is true.
She later observed to me, out of the blue, that with pregnancies so often premature or induced, many people are being born out of the astrological sign for which they were intended. I have brought this up to friends, and it always sparks intense thought and discussion. “Good God!” people say.
I’m uncomfortable thinking that my growing appreciation falls into the category of compliments defined by that apocryphal Mark Twain quote, in which the parent seems to get more educated as the child gains wisdom. Sadly -- for myself -- I have no other explanation, aside from the weak possibility of a symptom of empty-nester syndrome of which no one speaks.
Even if it’s true that this says more about me than about my mother, at least I benefit. I can look forward to a rich vein of illuminating talks. (That is, so long as this doesn’t afflict my mother with performance anxiety.) So I can wish my mother a happy birthday with eagerness, instead of just adoration.
And if the opposite is true, I am excited again. I have the same genes.
I look forward to my genius.
Happy birthday, mom.