For me, it happened on May 23, 1966, at St. Johns hospital in St. Louis, Mo.
It was that day that I was given the greatest gift of my life, being born the son of Joan Margret Barry. And, oh yeah, the son of Philip Barry (but, come on Dad, this is about Mom). For as great of an honor as it was and has been to be the son of Joan, it has also been a somewhat frustrating and mysterious privilege. There’s this thing that she has that’s almost incomprehensible. It’s this darn, often overused term — unconditional love.
By nature, I’m a person that has to experience things, touch and feel them. I love the phrase my Dad (and Elvis) would often bark out, “Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” To me, this can also apply to something very good that you’re trying to understand. And let me tell you, I’ve tried on every one of my mom’s flats, heels and boots but it has gotten me nowhere. (Hypothetically, of course.)
I want to understand it, I want to feel it, heck I might even say that I’m jealous of it. It would be nice to be so clear and decisive about things. Don’t get me wrong, there are things I love with a deep and mighty passion. And there have been times that I’ve instinctively done things without thinking for a millisecond about myself. But, the reality is that everyday decisions and situations we all go through — although sometimes at the speed of light — are filtered through this thought of, “How will this affect me?”
Mothers have lost that filter. They can love so beautifully without thinking. So in this lies my frustration of chasing the elusive unconditional love. I know it exists; I’ve seen it a million times in my mother’s eyes and actions. What an amazing thing to be the beneficiary of. But I’m like a blind man looking for Bigfoot trying to emulate it.
So one of the best things I could think to do to tell my mom ‘thanks’ was to name a pair of underwear after her. (It’s not flowers, but hey — it works, right?)
So to my son Rowan, come on boy, help your ole man out. Last September, my wife and I welcomed Rowan Philip Barry. (See Dad, he wasn’t named Rowan Joan Barry. Ha Ha…Thought about it though.) At 51, I became a first-time father and my early read is that this might be the best expedition yet to give unconditional love.
To be honest, if it feels like I’ll never find it, it’ll be alright. I’m very happy with the fact that my loving capacity is still growing. I think I’m just going to enjoy the ride from here on out. At least I have unwavering knowledge of its existence and an appreciation for all the mothers out there who have conquered it.
So, if in 25 years you see this old, salty fellow with a pint telling a hard-to-believe tale of a love greater and stronger than Moby Dick, yet more of a mystery than the Loch Ness monster, pull up a stool and find out how I chased the elusive wonder of unconditional love!
#1 Momma’s boy, Dan Barry