Published in the Ferndale Record, April 30, 2014
Many years ago when my father was hospitalized for a few days, I went to Oregon to see him and my mother. It was just me – no husband or children. I didn’t think much about it until my mom kept mentioning how happy she was, how grateful, that I’d come to spend time with her.
I was in the middle of the fray that is a young family and everything that means. Taking a few days to spend with my parents didn’t feel like a sacrifice, it felt like a vacation. But what was curious about it was my mother’s response. She never forgot and long after expressed her thanks.
Looking at this incident from a different angle now, I get her enthusiasm.
I remembered it again today when a tall, handsome, bearded boy that lives in Seattle treated me to lunch. He’d come to Bellingham for another purpose, but expressed desire to spend a little time with his mom. I was happy to oblige.
We sat across from each other noshing on sandwiches and salads and talked about everything from the intrinsic differences between introverts and extroverts, to making unpopular decisions, to why we like certain music, to how the human mind operates. There wasn’t a cell phone, or another person we knew, in sight.
When kids are little, you have to kind of work to make these things happen. You set up ‘daddy-daughter dates’, or ‘mommy and me’ time. The same is true with grown children, only the onus is often on them. My life is comparatively simple, and my schedule a little more flexible. When one of them chooses to hang out with me, it’s a gift of their time I don’t take casually.
So, today, for the bazillionth time, I noted the shape of his nose, the way he laughs, the texture of his hair, the growing wisdom in his thoughts, and the strength in his hug. Being a word person, I also felt a little glee when he used ‘reprehensible’ as part of conversation.
When he brought me home I got to hear him play the piano again, and talk about music a little more. I watched as he returned a phone call to his little brother, and waved as he drove away. And even though I didn’t ask for his support and love on this particular day, I felt it. And he likely didn’t realize, again, what all of this meant to his Saturday lunch date.
It’s pretty simple, really. My mom was responding to time alone with one of her children, who had gone out of the way to be with her. And this afternoon I feel probably kind of like she did. Grateful, for sure, but also a little in mother-love – that goofy, inexplicable joy that only certain people on the planet, no matter how old they seem to get, can make me feel.
Individuals in families sometimes take each other for granted. We assume, we expect, we put pressure on and try to control our most important connections. But isn’t it lovely when we don’t, and things work out anyway?