Mother’s Day Revisited.
For Mother’s Day, I told Mark, “I don’t want anything, but I do want to be with my mom.” This proved to be quite the tall order, since my parents lived four hours away, and we were still obligated to picking up kids from college, staying put for other kids to work, and in general, wanting to give my dad a break from the winter winds of Amherst, which, as it was everywhere, had not turned yet to Spring.
I drove to Amherst and spent the night with my parents. It was rather late when I arrived, but both were waiting at the door, to welcome me. My mother, always happy to see me, hugged me. She will say things, “Oh Net, now, where did you come from?” And this I take to mean, where did you drive in from?
I tell her, “Cincinnati,” and she asks, “Is that with Mark Manley?” I shake my head yes, then we list all the children of the house, Cheryl, Shannon, Kaitlyn and Davis, and finally Enzo, the dog. Then she will say, “I remember Enzo was little just like this,”and she holds her hands about six inches apart. And she says, “Remember, you didn’t want that dog, that was our dog.” I agree, because its not worth wasting our time together rewiring her memory to include the fact that a few years back she and dad accompanied me to pick out what became my family’s puppy, and his first night with us was spent at my mother’s house.
We wake in the morning, and I pack for both of them. Well, my dad picks out his own clothes. I am tasked with getting mom to dress, and selecting a few clothes. She is adamant that she will wear her brown shoes, shoes that do not fit. But I figure we are traveling by car and I can encourage her to take off the shoes in the car. Days later, I would steal those shoes away and store them in the back corner of my closet, as they would become the bane of our existence throughout the entire weekend, my mother constantly asking for a shoe stretcher, and the rest of us scrambling to find out where she last left it.
The ride to Cincinnati is uneventful thankfully. We listen to (according to iTunes) 28 Frank Sinatra songs, and Mother knows every word. Sometimes, I wonder if she still dreams about Frank, the way we all did when we were teens, and had that one idol (mine was Bruce). We settle into my home, where Mom still knows where the cereal is kept, having spent a year’s worth of nights here over the years. But this time proves to be more a challenge. She does not like to be alone in a room. She forgets where the bathroom is. I sense another step in the progression of her disease. But I set that aside because this is Mother’s Day weekend.
When she is dressing the next morning, I want to get her mindset away from wearing tan so she won’t want to wear her brown shoes. I set out black pants and a black sweater. But she has pulled out the tan outfit. The confrontation begins. “Mom, you wore that yesterday.” “How do you know, are you God, that you know what I wore yesterday?’” I am arguing with a teenager here, for this I am certain. “ I tell her, “Yes, I am God and I know what you wore yesterday.” She retorts, “Well I don’t want to wear that today.” We settle on an outfit she can wear with gray pants. I am exhausted and it is only 8:30 a.m.
I take her for a pedicure. She is being pampered, with her feet soaking in the warm water. Rachel, the pedicurist whose mother is 90, is accustomed to dealing with stubborn wise women. She carefully tends to Mother’s feet, as if she is washing the feet of Jesus himself, I swear. When Rachel tends to Mom’s ingrown toe nail, Mom squirms, then tells Rachel jokingly but not, “You’re going to send me through the roof.” This gets such great laughs throughout, that Mom repeats it often.
We dine with the family three nights in a row. When we are out to dinner, she tells the waiter each time he arrives at the table, “I would like pasta and a salad,” and this is while he is only bringing waters or drinks. None of us are ready to order, but she is.
She sits in church on Sunday, and I am the one with the pursed lips, telling her to be quiet, because she is busy waving to the little children. She is enthralled by little children, wherever we are. She leans over and whispers, “ I used to be into God and Christ.” And I nod then ask, “What about now?” and she says, “Not really anymore.” Somehow her disease has freed her conscience too and for this I am thankful.
The sun comes out and in the middle of the day, we sit outside. She is the original sun worshipper, I move the sun chairs two or three times, because she wants to be where Dad is, and I am trying to give Dad a break. So, I shuttle chairs from front yard to back, to front to back. Dad soon leaves us, but I bring out the music player again, and we play more Frank. She asks, “Hey, who is that?” And I know she knows, so I wait for her to tell me. And slowly, she does.
The Summer Wind plays, so I reach for her hand and encourage her out of the chair. We dance to Frank, we are all anxious for Spring here and at her home. We cheer for the “summer wind, a fickle friend,” and sway to the breeze blowing across the patio.
It was a beautiful Mother’s Day, despite some of Mom’s physical ailments removing her from the party at times. But she ate ½ of her dessert, then went to find Dad and ate all of his. I don’t think that day had any real significance for her, except that she was with those who loved her.
When Mark and I drove Mom and Dad back to Amherst the following day, we made a few more stops than usual for gas, bathroom (Mark), bathroom again (me). We were driving in a rental van, due to car in the shop. So, I would help buckle Dad and Mom into the bucket passenger seats.
When I went to my mom’s side, she reached for me and pulled me into her chest., and says, “Love you”. “Love you too Mom. I lay there for a moment, my head resting near hers, and chills engulf my being.
Over the weekend, I had been parenting Mom, as she returns to a child like state, I am leading her to bathrooms, telling her what to wear, or what shoes not to wear.
I don’t know I that am equipped to mother my own Mom. “Mother” is not a role, a title, or for that matter a position of prominence. There are no degrees, certificates, or graduation. But I do know, in that moment of buckling Mom into her seat, what I felt wash over me was pure grace.