Saturday, May 14, 2011
May 14, 2011 ~ Day 155
The kids and I had just entered our house (well, I entered... they swarmed) when the telephone rang.
“I wonder if that’s your Mima?” I said aloud, “She must be waiting for her next flight.”
When I'd spoken to my mother yesterday evening at 9:15pm she could not have been more excited. “By tomorrow at this time, I’ll be in Barcelona!” she veritably glowed. She and a close girlfriend would be adventuring throughout the Costa Brava over the coming week and this would be my mother’s first trip to Spain - not to mention her first time in Europe since the death of my father two years ago.
These past few months have been a joyous time of preparation for my mother - buying travel guides and language CDs, exchanging money for Euros, putting together the perfect traveling clothes, poring over maps and watching Spanish language films. She’s been luminous with the joyful anticipation of it all.
I, of course, have felt anxious. As previously noted in this blog - I hate it when people I love are flying. The mere thought of airplane flight makes my heart race a bit. Realizing how selfish it was for me to waste my mother’s positive energy by expressing a deep-seated worry for her safety, I ‘buttoned my lip’ and told her just how thrilled I was for her journey. I meant it. Nobody in the world deserves a bit of sunshine and adventure more than my mother.
(I’m sure that countless folk deserve these good things just as much... but no-one could deserve them more.)
Before I left to pick up my eldest son from kindergarten this afternoon, I went onto the online airline flight status checker to see if my mother’s flight had arrived safely in New York City. Relieved, I saw that it had landed about forty minutes earlier -- even a few minutes ahead of schedule.
“Oh good!” I thought. “She’ll have more time to make her connecting flight to Barcelona.” Smiling at the visual of my mother sitting on the plane that would take her overseas to fulfill her recent dreams, I herded my two younger children into the car and went to pick up their big brother.
We were just walking through the door, then, when the telephone rang.
Happily, I picked up expecting to hear my mother’s beautiful voice. At the last second I glanced at caller ID and saw that it was my older sister.
“Hi there!” I answered. “How are you?”
“Honey,” she replied. “I have bad news. Our mother is not doing well...”
Before she could say more, my heart stopped for a second. Isn’t this the call that everyone in the world dreads the most? The call which tells them that unexpectedly - out of nowhere, even - someone they love has fallen ill, gotten hurt, or worse.
Without meaning to, I clenched my teeth and gripped the telephone much harder.
“What?!! Where is she? What happened?”
I don’t think it would be appropriate to share further details of my mother’s terrible day here. That story is hers and it doesn’t seem like my place to tell it. Suffice to say that she has had just about the worst day that one might imagine for a warm-hearted woman in her seventies who had planned to meet a dear friend out of the country for an adventure but ended up instead exceptionally ill in an airport all alone, three thousand miles from home.
Since getting that first call from my sister, the rest of my day (all 8 hours of it) has pretty much blurred together. I’ve felt so incredibly helpless to do anything at all for my mother, the precious person who has done the most for me in my life. Gosh, even more than that - she *gave* me my life, and risked her own to bring me into the world.
The thought - fleeting though it was - that I could lose her so suddenly and in such a way... truly rocked my balance as a wife, mother and human being today.
I realized that one day I *will* receive that kind of call about my mother. The day will come when this angel in my life is no longer physically present to nurture me in the hundreds of ways that she continues to do... ways as large as caring for my children while my husband and I go on dates, all the way down to the small thoughtful gestures that she performs unasked all of the time - buying us groceries, doing our dishes, folding laundry with me, going out of her way to cook gluten free food for me without ever making a big deal of it. She has been a rock in my life for so long - 35 years - and someday, she will be gone.
And when that day comes, I will be an orphan of sorts. If you’re an adult when your parents pass away, are you still an orphan? I’m not sure how that works. In any event, I will have lost both of my parents.
Parents are the only people on this planet that will ever love you unconditionally. That’s just how strong the love of a parent is for their child. The love of a husband and wife is different. There are conditions. The conditions say something like:
“I promise to love you forever and be faithful to you in all ways - and to try to treat you with respect... but NOT if you cheat on me, NOT if you ignore or abuse me, NOT if we fall out of love or find that we’ve grown tired of each other after twenty years or so. I also probably won’t love you as much if you commit a felony or do something heinous that hurts other people physically or emotionally.”
The love of a parent is a whole different ballgame.
When a mother looks at her small baby she thinks, “I will love you from this moment before your actual birth all the way until the moment I take my last breath. I will love you no matter what you do to me or how many terrible things you say to me when you are an angry teenager. I will love you whether you call me once a week or once a year. I will love you even if you embezzle money or commit heinous deeds. I will love you because I am your mother and you are my child.”
My husband and I reflected tonight, on the couch after we’d put the kids to bed, about this amazing love that parents have for children... and which children don’t necessarily return, at least not until they are adults.
“You only realize,” he commented, “Just how amazing your parents are and how important they are to you - when you become a parent and have children of your own. Then it all becomes clear; the sacrifices they have made to make your life what it became.”
“If only I had been a better kid,” I mourned. “I would give anything to go back in time just for one day - twenty years ago before my dad got sick, when both of my parents were still pretty young, strong and beautiful - and spend a whole day just in their company, talking and doing things together.
When I was younger,” I continued, “I only wanted to get away from my folks. I wanted to be with my friends, my boyfriend. I wanted to go to parties and to the beach, to work at my job and do as much as I could to feel independent of my home. Now that I’m an adult, I realize how much time I wasted that I could have spent with two of the most important people in my life.”
“I think that’s pretty normal,” he responded. “I didn’t appreciate my parents fully until we had our first son. And you know what? Our karma is going to be that we’re going to have to go through all of this too, with our own kids. They will pull away from us, not appreciate all that we do for them, give us a run for our money just like we did with our own parents.
That is the cycle of life,” he added. “We get the true payback for what we did to our own parents when it comes back to us through our own children.”
“Oh no,” I groaned. “I’m not sure I can handle that kind of payback. I was a pretty tough kid.”
“We’ll get through it,” he laughed. “At least we’ve got each other.”
* * * * *
My mother is now safely in the care of my elder brother, resting at his New York City home. I could not be more grateful that he was in town - that he had the time - that he could rush to get to the airport to be with her and transport her to a safe and beautiful environment in which to recuperate.
I have great confidence that she is going to be fine this time around, that in a week or so I’ll be giving her a big hug and welcoming her back to our city and her home.
This experience has given me much pause for thought though, about how critical time is right now and how important it is to me to spend more of it with her. I love my mother. I will miss her profoundly, when we are forever parted some day. I hope that day is a long, long time coming.
Until then, I plan to be a better daughter - and, if my prayers are answered, to need less from her while giving her more joy (and lots of love) so that she spends these years as happily and joyfully as possible.