I missed the Luau Party date on Arden Courts’ activities calendar. So, I was surprised when at Mom’s on a Tuesday to find a luau was to occur later, complete with sweet and sour meatballs, tiki cups, hula dancing and steel drums. Sadly, I could not partake. I wished Arden would have hosted the event on a Saturday or Sunday, despite the fact I had been inconsistent in my attendance on weekends.
Arden Courts was not responsible for my social life. I handled that fairly well. But they were responsible for Mom’s, and by proxy, that meant me too.
I prided myself in my near-perfect attendance for major events that occurred at Arden Courts. With a flexible schedule and even more flexible husband, I have attended Teddy Bear teas, senior proms, Valentine’s Day dances, chili cook-offs (a risky proposition) and Catholic holiday masses.
My schedule with Mom was somewhat regular, somewhat not, and somewhat dependent on the weather. I charted my time based on if I could urge her outside or not, and how long one of us could withstand the stinky heat. Then, when winter blew in, as if Mom’s disposition was not already thrown into disarray, doors locked and Mom and I were stuck staring at a sun that clearly quit its job in December, January and February.
When Mom first moved to Arden Courts, I diligently attended to her every other day. On weekends, I dropped in twice – most weekends were only two days long. Thus, I had tried out all the activities. I actually watched Cleveland Browns-Cincinnati Bengals football games, complete with popcorn, in the community room with Mom because it was less painful than to view the game with my husband and son, and their pithy Cleveland jokes running in the background.
Family members and friends struggled with ways to stay engaged with loved ones, but I didn’t. I loved singing with the Merry Moores because of their corny humor. I loved Chaplain Geoff and his booming voice. I relished in Friday mornings, because the activity was like Jazzercise, only from the seated position. I called it a Dance Party, but Arden Courts called it exercise. Mom never, NEVER, moved an inch if she didn’t want to, so swinging to Jerry Lee Lewis, just to get her heart rate up, was not going to happen. Still, I was there.
Later, I started missing days on the weekend. Then, I skipped a full weekend, but showed up Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, out of guilt, obligation and the fact that I had missed out on activities like the luau or race car simulations or Irish dancing.
And I told myself, “Its OK. You’re working too.” I secretly confessed my sins to my rearview mirror, instead of waiting for the priest to arrive at Catholic mass at Arden.
I missed one Mother’s Day. Possibly Easter. A Fourth of July (read more about why that date was important). One Christmas Eve (Try taking out an 80 something-year-old in southern Ohio sleet and see if your loved one speaks to you again.)
Mom didn’t know one day from the next. She didn’t know if she missed hula-hoop class, for which she might be thankful. Or if she skipped communion, which the Eucharist tended to stick in her throat since she had been prescribed a soft mechanical diet.
But I knew. And I knew Mom had never missed a track meet of mine. She postponed cancer treatments to travel to Oregon when Davis was born. Mom gave up weeks to help during my first husband’s cancer diagnosis and in my next days as single mother.
She had a long record of showing up. “Wherever there was the need,” she said. That included toting six-dozen, neatly-boxed Italian cookies to Cincinnati for my first wedding reception, and a repeat of that Herculean effort for reception number two. She knew how to show up. And she filled that space with who she was.
These days, Mom and I have to get creative in how we filled time. Her hourglass rotated unceasingly, as if before the sands of time ran out, the glass automatically flipped when neither of us were looking.
In those moments, time became seamless and nearly weightless, as a scene from Downton Abbey with Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, played in my mind, complete with British accent.
At the dinner table, Matthew Crawley is speaking about a job.
His father-in-law, Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, is incredulous. “You do know I mean to involve you in the running of the estate?”
“There are plenty of hours in the day,” Matthew responds. “And of course, I’ll have the weekend.”
The acerbic Viola interjects. “What…is a weekend?”
It was hard to lose hours with Mom, who couldn’t comprehend the dimensions of her space and time. But the sands of time kept rotating, and it was only silly humans who attached actual schedules to our time to love.
It was a Friday. It had been three days since my last visit. Mom was seated outside, in the shade. I tugged at her sleeve and kissed her on the cheek. “Hi, beautiful.”
Mom shot daggers at me with her hazel eyes, as if accusing me of skipping church on Sunday and daring me to produce a church bulletin with the current date.
Maybe she still knows what is a weekend after all.