Stephen Lavezzo: Mama's Boy

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As his mother nears her end, Stephen Lavezzo gratefully recalls all she has taught him.

He’s doing what he has to do. He comes across a black and white photo of a pretty young girl in an office. Her hands positioned gracefully on a keypunch machine; beautiful hands. He didn’t know her then.

There’s an 8mm movie. It’s a warm afternoon, and a very determined little leaning tower is learning how to walk. Her hands are the only things that keep him from disaster. She tells him about his world— the sky, the clouds, a ladybug, a penny. He learns quickly to wiggle loose, but always looks back to see if she’s there. Reluctantly, she lets him go, but not too far.

He’s sick all the time. He has five cavities.

She looks away for a moment. He jumps in the deep end of the pool and sinks. His uncle saves him and puts him back in her hands.

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“Let him go! You’re overprotective! So what if he breaks something! You gotta toughen that boy up! He’s going to grow up to be weak and sensitive, or worse…"

“Don’t go out with your hair wet, you’ll catch a cold.”

I learned selflessness from my mother’s sacrifices. I learned compassion from her sadness. I learned joy from her wonder. I understood true strength from being held gently in her hands.

“Don’t eat cherries and then drink milk.”

Now, I hold onto her hand for the last time. There is no strength I can call on. No lesson I can learn. I’m a man trying to prepare for the profound loss that lay ahead. Now when I go to look back, it will be a memory. This time I don’t want to let go.

So I turn my grief into gratitude. It strengthens my connection to others, and helps me understand my storied past with her. I become simply thankful for a journey with an amazing woman, a woman whose determination for a happy life allowed her to bridge an early fountain of pain and sadness.

“Work hard and achieve whatever you want honestly.”

My mother’s lessons were not lost on me. I became, and I remain, a Mama’s boy…

With a Perspective, I’m Stephen Lavezzo.

Stephen Lavezzo is a teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District.