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My Mother, In Her Zone

May 13th, 2013

A few weeks ago, my mother announced to the family that she was nominated for Employee Of The Year at her hospital. My initial thought was, “Whoa mom, that’s a pretty big deal.” From past conversations I knew her hospital was one of the top in the state, maybe even the country. And though there was no guarantee she’d be one of the final 25 selected for the title, having her name bubble up among the some 6,000 employees was already a substantial accomplishment.

She asked if I would fly in to be her young, hunky escort at the awards banquet. So last week I trekked from LGA to DIA to catch the event. After working from home (and by working I mean alternating between staring at my inbox and the refrigerator), my mother and I got dolled up and sauntered over to the Marriott Ballroom for an evening of red wine and healthcare industry inside jokes.

The senior management took turns describing accomplishments and recanting stories as they announced each of the official winners. After two hours of some seriously heart-warming tales and 24 recipients had walked the stage, a voice from the microphone started “The last selection for Employee Of The Year definitely knows her charts and graphs. Please welcome our final winner tonight…”

My mother’s name boomed over the loud speakers. Number 25 of 25.

There’s something disconnected about trying to comprehend your parents’ professional lives. Maybe it’s because I always saw the after work, non 9-5 versions of them. It’s difficult just to imagine how they operate in their work. What are they known for among their coworkers? How do they act during meetings? How do they deal with stressful situations?

My mom handles infection control, that means preventing disease spread in the hospital, prepping epidemic readiness plans, doing the hand-hygiene-WHO-CDC-decontamination-Purell-stuff. Hearing her managers describe my mother’s work, her quick thinking, her cool head under pressure was nothing short of humbling. It also was a little like attending a friend’s dance performance or hearing a buddy’s band play, that awe of seeing someone do something you’ve only heard them talk about. Though watching my mom walk the stage wasn’t exactly like seeing someone perform, just the context gave me a bit of a better grasp of “her thing.” This was her zone.

I helped my mother boot up Excel and Powerpoint for the first time years ago. When she went back to school for her Master’s Program, I was a bratty high-schooler. I showed her how to launch programs on her PC, navigate Windows Explorer, and eventually build presentations and plot graphs. I didn’t think much of it back then, and my hormone-induced snappy demeanor didn’t make it any easier for her. But thinking back, I’m glad I could play a tiny role in helping her make an impact today.

Mother’s day was on Sunday, which is merely an appropriate coincidence. But since it’s timely, Happy Mother’s Day and congratulations, Mom. You’re doing great work.

I’m proud to be your son.