Mom has been concerned with the well-being of a close friend for over two weeks now. So intense has it been that she decided to take a break from her thoughts and go to a movie with other residents on the Piedmont Place bus. She thinks the movie was directed by Clint Eastwood, but didn’t pay much attention to it. The point was to remove herself to a different environment. This is a highly unusual thing for her…she recognized a need, selected a solution, and executed it. She called me first to tell me she was doing it, of course, and I tried to contain my delight. I told her to have fun.
While that may seem to be the pivotal moment of the day, it pales in contrast to what came later.
I have Mom’s cherished wedding album with all the pictures of Mom and Pop’s younger selves and infant pictures of the three children. I’m digitizing all of the pictures so that Elizabeth, Michael and I can have them while Mom retains the actual album.
Mom called late this afternoon and asked me to bring in the album and to plan on spending about an hour with her. The album and the hour both caused some wonder, but no problem…I went to visit her after dinner. She opened the album and found two specific pages on which were perhaps eight infant pictures of me. There were my parents holding me with love in their eyes. There was Mom holding me alongside my godmother with love in their eyes. There were the Giefers posed with Mom around me with love in their eyes. You get the idea.
With quiet clarity, Mom said she always gave me unqualified love. At the same time, she perceives, I’ve always resisted her love; that I’ve kept myself just a bit distant from it. She is quick to say that my effort on her and Pop’s behalf over the past five years is gratefully appreciated. But she believes it was done out of concern; not love.
Mom feels that I’m talking down to her as if I were the parent. She understands that she’s old now, that there are many things she cannot do, and that her memory is sometimes suspect. But she still wants me to think of her as the parent.
All of this was said with love.
There was little I could say. I could have argued the merits of her thesis, but this wasn’t about scholarship. I could have simply told her she was wrong, but that wouldn’t help her; perhaps more importantly, it wouldn’t help me.
So I thanked her for talking with me and promised to give it much thought. And when I hugged her goodbye, I said “I love you,” and I meant it.