Learning Unconditional Love From My Mother

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We are celebrating my mom’s 74th birthday today.   She is a medical licensed pediatrician in China.  When my family immigrated to the United States in 1980, her medical degree was not recognized here in the states and she lack the basic English to be medical doctor here.  She took on a job as a seamstress and was paid by each piece of clothing she was able to make.  Given her lack of background on the sewing machine, she did not not last very long at that job.  She studied English at night and then she got a lucky break in being hired in an acupuncture office. The owner of the practice did not have a medical degree and wanted someone like my mom with Eastern medicine experience. She later received board certification in California as a licensed accupunturist and have practiced for over 30 years in San Francisco and later a 2nd location in San Jose.

In my early memory of my mom, she is often calm and very deliberate with her words.  My memories of her when I was young was her taking care of my cuts and bruises, wrapping my head in medicine to treat head lice and fanning me to sleep on scorching nights in Hunan.

Later on in middle school and highschool my mom must have worried a lot about me.  I was not sociable.  I didn’t have many friends of the opposite sex.  I had done well in school but socially awkward. The one constant I did feel from my mom was that she had unconditional love for me.  Whether I went to UC Berkeley or not.  Whether I had a high paying job or not.  The word love was not said in our house.  Hugs were not given.  Later on, my mom told  me that for her generation, it was very hard to say those words of affection, it was just awkward to say them.

When I was 35 years old, I learned the greatest trait my mom has shown me.  One evening, I told my parents I was getting divorced.  I don’t know what I expected my parents to say.  But what came next from my mom gave me strength to come out of the divorce a much better person, a better father and a more empathetic son.

My mom sat down next to me and told me that it is best to let everything follow their natural path and don’t force things to happen.  Her natural calm demeanor reminded me that even though the world seems to be crumpling around me, in the grand scheme of life, this too shall pass with time. She made feel that is there is nothing wrong with me.

The greatest trait I learn from my mom that day is that when someone needs you the most, the best gift you can give them is unconditional love and support. No judgement, accept the person in your life for who they are.


Tony Tam