As a child, I seldom gave my parents reasons to worry, punish or, heaven forbid, ground me. Raised in the 50’s, when the unthinkable included sneaking a cigarette, hiking your school uniform ABOVE your knees or using words like heck and darn, I flourished. Weekends were spent with grandparents, family card night, and watching the 12” black and white TV. The quiet interrupted only when we fought over which of the 3 channels to watch. Faith, family, friends and food were the staples of life
When Dad died, Mom stayed in the ‘neighborhood’. Good neighbors whose hearts were always open, doors unlocked, opinions vocalized, and refrigerators full. Mom blossomed. However, over time the parent-child roles reversed. I became concerned -is she eating, is she safe, is she watching too much TV, well, maybe not the TV. During the 8 years she lived alone she became frail. I kept in touch daily, calling, visiting, begging her to come live us. Her answer was always the same, “someday, maybe someday.”
One evening, I surprised her with her favorite Boston Market chicken. She was worse than I had ever seen her. Her pallor was the color of slate, she could barely speak above a whisper and hunched over her plate pushing the food around rather than eating. Something was wrong. All she said was “I’m tired. A couple hours of sleep and I’ll be fine.”
After dinner she asked if I would give her a bath. I bathed her, washed her hair and carried her to bed. She smiled and asked me to lock up before I left. I waited until she was asleep and left. On the drive home I convinced myself I was doing the right thing. My heart said you’re wrong but my head said you have a TO-DO list to complete. You see, I was a business owner with responsibilities.
When I told my husband what happened, he asked me why I didn’t stay. My answer, Mom said to leave and anyway, I have a TO DO list to complete. His response shall remain between us. The next morning I called but there was no answer. I panicked. Just then the phone rang. It was my aunt telling me Mom was in the hospital with congestive heart failure.
She never returned home. After weeks in the hospital she moved in with us. Every morning for the next two years, I’d bring her a cup of coffee and we’d talk. One day I brought up that night and asked for her forgiveness for not staying. She said, “There’s nothing to forgive. You’re a business owner with responsibilities. It never crossed my mind that you should stay.” To her, leaving that night didn’t mean I loved her less it just meant I had my priorities in the right place. Only a Mother can be that loving, understanding and forgiving. That night I learned about love and forgiveness and to make people the priority. You see, I still have a TO-DO list but I don’t have my Mom.
Who are the priorities in your life?