I’m tired. It’s hard to adequately describe or even summarize the last two weeks. I chose not to write about it at the time because I wanted to live it, instead, and my time felt limited and stretched as it was. As always, I tried to create more time by sacrificing sleep, with varying results.
I’m tired but happy. it was a great trip.
I’m 49 and my mom is 78. I think she’s past the age where she’s offended by having her age revealed. I hope so. I think she should be proud of how active and amazing she is. As I watch people age, I see characteristics intensify. A touch of bitterness in the twenties can look surly in the fifties and full-on curmudgeonly by the seventies. Mom is sweet and kind and generous and happy. I think there was a time—okay, I know there was a time—when I thought she was a little too happy and positive and not shrewd or aware enough. Those can be nice words for jaded and world-weary. Seeing my mom at this age, I think she has chosen wisely. Yes, you can see the worst in people and guard yourself all the time…and fifty or seventy years letter, the results will show. The results show in Mom, too.
We walked a lot. We took a daily walk and I lobbied for two. We talked about how many steps she was registering on her Fit Bit (note—steps actually happen whether or not Fit Bits score them. I know, surprising.) and her most-steps competition with my brother-in-law. We talked about people we know from my growing up years. We talked about moving back from Nicaragua and my daughter’s return to Nicaragua. We also talked about her health.
I am not superstitious, so I don’t believe talking about being in the later or last stage of life will jinx anyone. I don’t know how much time Mom has left. I hope a lot. I miss my dad a lot, crazy and difficult though he could be. He was also my biggest encourager in my first twenty-eight years of life and generous beyond belief. Generous with himself as well as generous with his money and things. I visited his grave while I was there, which of course does not mean I visited Dad, merely the place where we most directly remember the joy and grief of our life together.
I don’t know how much time Mom has left (nor how much I have, when we come to it), but I’ve learned that these visits are precious and they are the best way I can love her. I mean, yes, coming to her house and having her feed me and spoil me. That’s how how I love her. That’s how I let her love me. If she were bitter or cynical, that might not work. But she’s joyous and hopeful. So we walk and talk and work off the cookies and brownies she makes and I eat. (And eat.) I’m going back a little heavier than when I arrived and at this age I’ll have to work pretty hard to take those pounds off again. But Mom visits are feasts, not fasts. I don’t know how many I have left, but I tried to make that the best one yet.
My kids didn’t come along this time. I don’t remember the last time I visited Illinois and brought none of my children. It’s a little disappointing for Mom not to have any grandchildren running around, riding my old bike, helping eat the cookies, showing her how much they’ve learned and matured since last time. But they are all deep in the midst of life transitions, moving countries, starting new schools, starting new jobs (I have kids starting jobs. Wow.). So I got Mom to myself.
On this same trip, I heard a friend describe time with her mother and frankly, it sounded awful. I’m not someone who has only Norman Rockwell fuzzy-warm memories of family time. I get it. Heck, I’ve been the cause of more than one unhappy family story. But at this stage, when “value each moment; you don’t know how much time you’ve got” is no cliche, I’m unspeakably grateful for the mom I have, for the love we have for each other, and for a visit when, amazingly, I got to know her a little bit better.