When you came into the world, she held you in her arms. You thanked her by wailing like a banshee.
When you were 1 year old, she fed you and bathed you. You thanked her by crying all night long.
When you were 2 years old, she taught you to walk. You thanked her by running away when she called.
When you were 3 years old, she made all your meals with love. You thanked her by tossing your plate on the floor.
When you were 4 years old, she gave you some crayons. You thanked her by coloring the dining room table.
When you were 5 years old, she dressed you for the holidays. You thanked her by plopping into the nearest pile of mud.
When you were 6 years old, she walked you to school. You thanked her by screaming, “I’M NOT GOING!”
When you were 7 years old, she bought you a baseball. You thanked her by throwing it through the next-door-neighbor’s window.
When you were 8 years old, she handed you an ice cream. You thanked her by dripping it all over your lap.
When you were 9 years old, she paid for piano lessons. You thanked her by never even bothering to practice.
When you were 10 years old, she drove you all day, from soccer to gymnastics to one birthday party after another. You thanked her by jumping out of the car and never looking back.
When you were 11 years old, she took you and your friends to the movies. You thanked her by asking to sit in a different row.
When you were 12 years old, she warned you not to watch certain TV shows. You thanked her by waiting until she left the house.
Those teenage years
When you were 13, she suggested a haircut that was becoming. You thanked her by telling her she had no taste.
When you were 14, she paid for a month away at summer camp. You thanked her by forgetting to write a single letter.
When you were 15, she came home from work, looking for a hug. You thanked her by having your bedroom door locked.
When you were 16, she taught you how to driver her car. You thanked her by taking it every chance you could.
When you were 17, she was expecting an important call. You thanked her by being on the phone all night.
When you were 18, she cried at your high school graduation. You thanked her by staying out partying until dawn.
Growing old and gray
When you were 19, she paid for your college tuition, drove you to campus, carried your bags. You thanked her by saying good-bye outside the dorm so you wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of your friends.
When you were 20, she asked whether you were seeing anyone. You thanked her by saying, “It’s none of your business.”
When you were 21, she suggested certain careers for your future. You thanked her by saying, “I don’t want to be like you.”
When you were 22, she hugged you at your college graduation. You thanked her by asking whether she could pay for a trip to Europe.
When you were 23, she gave you furniture for your first apartment. You thanked her by telling your friends it was ugly.
When you were 24, she met your fiance and asked about your plans for the future. You thanked her by glaring and growling, “Muuhh-ther, please!”
When you were 25, she helped to pay for your wedding, and she cried and told you how deeply she loved you. You thanked her by moving halfway across the country.
When you were 30, she called with some advice on the baby. You thanked her by telling her, “Things are different now.”
When you were 40, she called to remind you of an relative’s birthday. You thanked her by saying you were “really busy right now.”
When you were 50, she fell ill and needed you to take care of her. You thanked her by reading about the burden parents become to their children.
And then, one day, she quietly died.
And everything you never did came crashing down like thunder.
Today is Mother’s Day. And you wonder how you’ll ever repay all the loving, feeding, bathing, teaching, driving, guiding and caring you’ve received.
Well, as your mother might say:
You can start by saying, “Thank you.”
MITCH ALBOM can be reached at 1-313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to “ALBOM IN THE AFTERNOON” 3-6 p.m. weekdays and “MONDAY SPORTS ALBOM” 6:30-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR-AM (760).