As I reflect on all that I have to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, I am most grateful to have been loved unconditionally by my parents, Glover and Herlean Larkins. My parents thought that their dream of having a child wasn’t going to come true. Then after twenty-five years, I arrived and they were overjoyed. Through their actions here is what I have learned about love.
Love is patient.
My mother never learned to drive. It was my dad who drove her wherever she needed to go. Shopping was one of her favorite excursions and my dad always waited patiently no matter the length of time. Sometimes I would get tired of waiting and wanted to go home. My dad would remind me that my mother was always doing nice things for us and that we could show her our appreciation by giving her time to do something she liked. And so together we waited.
Love is dependable.
I knew that I could always count on my mother. She was always present. In the morning, making sure I got off to school. Welcoming me when I returned home from school. Reading to me before I went to bed. Comforting me when I fell. Advocating for me to have access to educational opportunities that others sought to deny me. Helping me relocate everything I moved. Always answering my call no matter what time I called.
Love is thoughtful, gives freely, and delights in your joy.
If my dad knew what you liked, you could count on him surprising you with his thoughtfulness. Every weekend, he would bring a bouquet of flowers home for my mother because he knew how much she loved flowers. Periodically, on our way grocery shopping, he and I would stop by my grandmother’s house to check and see if she needed anything from the store. When my Aunt Hellon came to visit, she could count on my dad having prepared her favorite dessert. There wasn’t a holiday that my dad didn’t surprise me with a treat. There was always a chocolate cake for my birthday. Conversation hearts and red hot candy for Valentine’s. Colored eggs for Easter. Sparkles for the 4th of July. My dad loved seeing others smile and he especially liked seeing me light up like a Christmas tree!
Love tells you the truth.
At the end of my first semester in college, I arrived home with excess weight. In fact, I was now wearing two sizes larger than when I left. Everyone in town noticed and remarked. Even my Sunday School teacher called me a “butter ball.” One day, my mother found me crying and inquired what was wrong. When I told her what had happened, she looked at me and lovingly said, “Patricia, you are fat. Now if you don’t want to be the size that you are now, crying won’t change things. Rather, you will have to change what you are eating and engage in more physical activity.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. But once I calmed down and thought about it, my mother was only telling me the truth.
Love believes, trusts, and expects the best
I came home excited about the opportunity to travel with some of my classmates to the nation’s capital. My mother was hesitant about letting me go. My dad reminded her that I could be counted on to follow the rules. He was confident that I could take care of myself and would make them proud. After his vote of confidence, my mother said yes. I wanted nothing more than to show my dad that he was right and I would not let him down.
Love doesn’t demand, rather lets you go in pursuit of your dreams
Shortly after I had enrolled in my graduate program at Michigan State, my dad passed. After returning home for the homegoing, I asked my mom if she wanted me to return home. I knew how dependent she was on my dad and that it would be a difficult transition with me so far away from home. “Absolutely, not” she replied. You have an opportunity to pursue your dream and that’s what I want you to do.” And there were many additional times that she let me go- to Georgia, Minnesota, Tennessee, DC, Pennsylvania, and ultimately Ohio.
I am grateful that through my parent’s actions, I discovered that the greatest gift is LOVE. This Thanksgiving Day, take time and share your love!