Taking Turns

Yesterday, I saw a friend from the health food store. We had a conversation about mothers, hers and mine. Her grandmother died in December at age 99. Her mother will be 70 this year and she’s spent the last bunch of years in stewardship of my friend’s grandmother. Now that the grandmother has died, my friend’s mother spends her time isolated, in winter desolation, on Cape Cod. We share the experience of finding ourselves in a quicksand of conflicted emotion regarding our mothers.

She feels guilty because she is impatient with her mother’s new fears and insecurities. The fears and insecurities are not new, they’ve appeared gradually over time. Now that her grandmother has died, her mother is not duty bound to remain strong. It is a hard transition. My mother was always my true north. As long as she lived, she was my compass through life. She was the measure of my tenacity. In the last decade or so of her life, I did not share my worries with her. She deserved a respite from my concerns. Instead, I told her hilarious tales of my diabolical plans to persevere in spite of the bastards. The bastards come in all shapes and sizes. My mother taught me that resiliency is success.

Cape Cod, where my friend’s mother lives, is farther from here than my mother’s house was but both mothers’ homes are in coastal communities where the sidewalks roll up after Columbus Day. As millions of aging offspring can attest,  it is nearly impossible to assume a diplomatic role reversal. It was my esteemed, opinion that Mum would benefit from winters spent in the community where I live, in close proximity to ME, so we could visit and I could make sure she was happy and comfortable. I tried for several seasons to convince her to close her house for the winter and to take an off-season rental here. I did not badger but I made the suggestion often. We couldn’t have lived together; I am willful (uninformed people may say stubborn) and that trait can be attributed to a direct line of descent.  After Mum died, her friends told me that she was making plans to come. I wish she had lasted that long.

My friend can’t reconcile her feelings and she’s having a hard job forgiving herself for them. The last time I saw my mother was the only time she was here on Hippy Hill. Parts of that visit were wonderful and parts were not so much. She happily counted all of the lady slippers at the edge of the drive, there were 27. She survived a visit from my brother Joe when she was relieved to have my protection from his relentless, addiction-fueled, extortion. She told me not to pick up where she left off with Joe. I didn’t. I was impatient with her the morning that she left. I couldn’t wait for her to go so I could get back to work. I know she knew that.

The fact that I loved my mother, or that I called her every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day, or that I worried so much about her that one day, a couple of months after she died, I felt levity as I crossed the street in the summer sun, which made me wonder where the sudden surge of freedom came from, until it dawned on me that I wasn’t worried about Mum anymore, doesn’t negate the fact that the very last time I was with her, while she lived, I couldn’t wait for her to go.

I wasted part of my turn and that part of the turn is over. Yesterday, I told my friend the story in more detail than I’ve told it to you. My friend is a mindful, wonderful person. The conflict and impatience she feels is normal. I hope that she will make good use of this part of her turn.


About elroyjones

Equal Elroy, searching for the best answer.
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7 Responses to Taking Turns

  1. I find myself getting closer to my mother as it seems like there is less and less time.

  2. maesprose says:

    I think part of our getting annoyed is nature’s way of helping us let go. You’ve given your friend good advice.

    • elroyjones says:

      I agree, Mae but it doesn’t make it any less troubling to know that if I’d known I would never see her alive again I would have behaved differently. My friend is smart and wonderful, not to mention pretty in an Ali McGraw with short hair sort of way, so she gets it. I hope you are having a lovely day where you are.

  3. John says:

    I can relate to this post — I find myself constantly struggling with the frustrations of watching my mom get older and slower … at 90, she’s in better shape than some. Patience has never been my strong suit, though caring for mom is teaching me patience. Though there are days when I still get so angry, though I’m much better about not showing my anger, because I know that it really isn’t her that I’m angry with — it’s the age, the natural progression of life, the fact that at 90 she could be gone at any moment (yes, I know anyone of us could be gone in an instant, but you know what I mean …. at 90, you really are living one day at a time). When I get angry I then get guilty for being angry; and then I get angry at myself for being angry. Some times I feel like I am always angry …

    Hugs to you my friend…..

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