Friday, September 11, 2009

Being the Mother I Would Have Been

Lisa and I were talking about her son’s first day of kindergarten; the potential perils of a school bus ride, whether or not he would easily make friends, how he would adapt to the new structure and environment.

I was flung back to the first day my mother attended her daycare program. A more anxious "parent" you’d be hard pressed to find. I agonized over her outfit, blanched at her crimson lipstick, thinking the women would find her tawdry. I drove her that first day and hovered for ten minutes, frantic for any indication of her mood. I called the center at lunchtime to see how she was faring.

When she came home, I studied her face like Magellan would the stars; were their signs of happiness or hurt? And then I almost knocked her over with questions.

“Did you make friends? Did anyone talk to you?”

“Of course people talked to me.”

“Were they nice?”

“They’re old.”

“YOU'RE old Ma.”

“Not like that.” Um, ok....

“Did you eat?”

“Oh yes, they serve a nice lunch.”

“What was it?”

“I don’t remember. But I ate it all.”

When she brought her first art project home, I nearly swooned. My mother wasn’t the sort to proudly display her children’s creations on the fridge, or keep them pressed in a yearly binder. The only items I have from my childhood are a pair of tiny brown and beaded moccasins, and one dainty, white shoe with a hole in the toe. Not a thing else. But her masterpieces I tack up on cork boards and showcase front and center on the fireplace mantle.

A do over for my childhood? Perhaps. Or just being the mother I would have been? More likely.

Lisa said, “You know Lee, we are doing the exact same things, for my son and your mother. We are washing, clothing, feeding, pampering and loving them. Finding the best programs for them to attend. Fawning over things they do and create. Even tucking them in at night. But I am doing it to help Joey grow…like a plant; pruning him, putting all my love into him in hopes he will be a good man, and you….”

“….I do it in hopes of a peaceful and easy end for my mother.”

We were silent. In a lot of ways, we are journeying the same road. The tasks we do nearly mirror each other. But in the end, the destinations are a lifetime apart.


  1. You know, Lisa, my mom (who was my dad's caregiver) and I used to have the same conversations. I had two babies around the time when my father was sinking most rapidly, and the two of us often compared notes and found we were doing exactly the same thing.
    The only difference being that I was doing it so I could nurture two good human beings, and she was doing it to make his end least traumatic for everyone.

  2. Exactly the same scenario. Amazing isn't it?

  3. Beautiful story. After my mom came home from the day activity she swore they didn't give her anything to eat!! (I knew they had.)

    Then one day a middle aged good looking man volunteered and was assigned to stay with her all day. She LOVED IT! AND HIM! She never grew weary of good looking men!

  4. I never thought of it like this. My son just started his freshman year of college and I am on my second year of taking care of my mom. I finished up raising my son and now I am doing the same things for my mom.

  5. Hi Karen, thank you for commenting. I look forward to reading your blog and will do so tomorrow (it is late here now). I will just be heading into my second year come December. Seems our mom's were diagnosed around the same time. mother is NUTS over good looking men :-)