Even as we enumerate their shortcomings, the rigor of raising children ourselves makes clear to us our mothers’ incredible strength. We fear both. If they are not strong, who will protect us? If they are not imperfect, how can we equal them?
Last week my Mom visited for an overnight. She’s spontaneous like that. There have been times she will make the three hour drive from Maine, just to come to one of the kids school performances, or even just to pop in for the day and say “hi”. Sometimes she stays overnight or for a few days. Sometimes she doesn’t.
She’s pretty easy to have around, and most always in great spirits. Regardless of the fact that her heel and hip have been bothering her these past few times, she’s always ready and willing to lend a helping hand, or run the vacuum and offering to perform a few of the chores she knows I hate, like throwing out the leftovers in the fridge.
Since I was a kid I’ve had this aversion to leftover food in tupperware containers. I had this bad experience once where I opened a container that had clearly been in the fridge too long. The smell reeked so terribly It took days for the scent to leave me. I was forever scarred. Every time I put some leftovers in those tidy, little, snappy plastic containers with the efficient lid that pops closed I just kind of blank on them. I have every intention of eating them…. tomorrow… except I don’t. I wished I had just thrown them away when they still smelled nice and fresh on the dinner plate, but that’s wasteful. A few days pass, and I notice them every time I open the fridge door, thinking I should just throw them away… and then I don’t. Gross, I know- It’s Gross. I’m pretty sure I should visit my therapist on the matter, but… that seems kind of silly, so I don’t do that either. Seems there are more important things to talk about, other than my aversion to left-over food in the tupperware containers in my fridge.
Each time my Mom comes to visit she makes a bee-line toward our kitchen… sometimes I think she makes the trip, just so that she can ease her mind that the old food isn’t languishing there. She has a tendency to worry about things like that. We laugh every time she asks me,
“How long has this been here?”
“Do you really want the answer?” I love answering questions with questions.
When she made her way out the door to go home, the morning after her visit, I gave her a big hug and told her I loved her. Lately, I am noticing that she seems older; a bit more fragile. I admire her so much for being so dedicated to all of her children and her grandchildren. I know she won’t always be able to get around so easily, and that this luxury of her sweet, short, and helpful visits won’t last forever.
Her grandchildren call her “Mim,” which means “grandmother” in French. ”Mim”,”Mimmy”, Mimmy-Mim”, “Mimmy-pants”, “My Mim”, and other great non-sensical terms of endearment have been known to erupt from exuberant lips that echo in glee in response to the sparkling, goofy, shiny, loving, generous, Mother of mine that my kids know and think of only as their very own. They seem fascinated, territorial, and surprised every time I remind them that she is in fact, MY Mother… just as I, am their Mother.
“She’s MY Mim” I say sometimes if I am teasing.
“No! She’s MY Mim!” They say back possessively.
We like this game. They adore her. Everyone does.
Mom called to say she was home safe, and thanked me for the time we spent.
“Thank you, Mom” I say – full well knowing that I am always the real beneficiary of her visits.
“When will we see you again?” I say as I plan the timing of my next batch of leftover meals….
“Soon” She always says.
My Sister called that Thursday night, exactly 24 hrs later.
Mom was in the hospital- a heart attack, she said.
My shock kept me from thinking logical thoughts.
I needed to hear her voice….
“Hello?” She answered her own cell phone (thank god for technology).
“Mommy?” My babyhood name for her came out as a prayer before I had time to modulate.
Please God… let me have the chance to hold my Mom and kiss her hand and stroke her cheek and love her the way I really do...
“Are you ok?” I realize this is a really stupid question.
“I am ok.”
She sounds terrible, little, and scared which makes a tsunami of tears flow from my eyes. I want to crawl into her lap, except I’m pretty sure this is where I am supposed to offer mine.
Ugh.. I am so awkward now….
“I’m coming.. ” I say.
“I’ll be there soon…” I say.
“Everything is going to be ok Mom..” I say…..
“I am ok honey… I’m not going anywhere”. Of course, – she knows I’m terrified.
“are you sure?” I ask trying not to let her hear me cry.
She knows me too well.
“I’m sure” She says, trying to convince me.
I can hear my own reflection, and like me, I know that she is also crying.
“Don’t you die on me Mom”.
I know she’ll hear this direct order as the way I really Intended it:
“I love you, I am so scared, I love you so so much, I’m terrified, and I need you, and I suck, I am a sucky daughter and I can’t do this! and I want to show you all the ways … all the ways I’ve always wanted to, and haven’t. SHIT. SHIT SHIT SHIT!!”
We made the drive to Maine mostly in silence, my panic and dread sat heavily between the gears, shifting from high to low, and back to high again. I am not prepared for this. How can you ever prepare for this? Once minute she’s dumping left overs from my fridge into the sink and we are laughing about this stupid little weirdo thing I do and then- boom!
The doctor called to let me know she had arrested again, and was being transferred for better care. They have what she needs at the other facility. He wanted me to know she was in excellent hands.
“Can I speak to her?” I asked, somehow already knowing this is no longer an option.
“She’s in Route now to the Portland Cardiac Unit. I’m sorry, – we will be in touch”, was all he said.
The attending cardiologist met her three children in the bitty family waiting room at the Hospital that was meant for quiet, somber conversations with “the family members”. Dr. Ryan looked Ivy league, mid- life, sounded competent from my vantage point- I mean, how does one really judge these things? He was pleased with the outcome of the procedure and her prognosis.
Although we won’t know the extent of the damage to her heart yet, or if there will be any long term consequences, she is out of the woods. She is lucky, and we are so blessed. Two heart stints enable her heart to beat and her blood to flow uninterrupted – no more blockage. She will need rehabilitation and will be monitored closely for the next year. She will be OK.
It took me a couple of minutes to let this information sink in.
My prayers have been answered.
I’m thinking that for the next several years we have together, I’d like to use my mothers time in more productive ways, than having her clean out the tupperware protected left-overs from my fridge. I will have to be a “big girl” now, and learn to do it on my own. I can be spontaneous, and make the three hour drive to Maine for visits just to come to one of her afternoon events, or just to say “hi” for the afternoon. Sometimes I’ll stay over night, or a few days, and sometimes I won’t.
This is my revelation for today. I know it’s deep, but I think you can read between the lines here. I know how mature, and wise, and independent you are, and unlike me; would never leave leftovers languishing in your fridge for your mother to come rescue you from.