When Mom’s legs weakened, she struggled with waning independence. I struggled to accept that the woman who had held my hand when I took my first steps needed help taking her own. At my age, I doubted I had the stamina to care for another human being 24/7. However, Mom needed assistance with daily tasks, and just as she once came to my aid when I got a scraped knee, I rushed in to help.
By the time Mom needed mothering, she had raised two daughters, lost one, became a widow, and maintained a career until retirement at age 74. Along the way, she developed opinions about everything, all different from mine. She had routines that no one could change, leas of all her daughter. Although I had Mom’s best interests in mind, she had a mind of her own. Sometimes she forgot what day it was, but she never let me forget I was the child in the relationship.
Early on, I realized the standards Mom had imposed upon me when I grew up no longer existed, and she had new rules. I tried to find a balance between letting an elderly woman eat what she wanted and making her eat healthily, but I learned early to pick my battles with Mom and this was not one of them
Mom often dozed in the recliner after lunch, but I did not realize the importance of that afternoon nap until we had a three o’clock medical appointment. The doctor asked Mom if anything bothered her, and without hesitation she said, “You’re bothering me.” My blood pressure soared, and my cheeks reddened with the embarrassment that did not let me forget to schedule all future appointments before noon.
Other than in front of the television, there was nowhere else Mom liked to spend time except the dollar store—the modern-day five-and-ten as she called it. When we made a trip to the dollar store on her 86th birthday, I bought her the adult coloring books and colored pencils she wanted. She said it was her best birthday ever. That is until the following year, when on her birthday we played bingo for prizes.
One day as I folded laundry and matched pairs of Mom’s white ankle socks, I heard a Dairy Queen commercial on her T.V. in the next room. Mom called out asking for ice cream, and it hit me. I never had children, but my nest wasn’t empty. In my sixties, I became a first-time mother of sorts, however, I would not have changed anything. I gave thanks for the extra time I spent with my mother; time I would not have had if she didn’t need some mothering the last years of her life.
As soon as I had learned to talk, my mother taught me the importance of saying please and thank you. She practiced what she preached. At the end of each day, she thanked me as I settled her in bed for the night and, of course, put the TV remote in her hand.
However, something in her eyes told me her appreciation extended beyond my leaving her slippers within reach and turning on the night light.
Donna Landi, a resident of Sleepy Hollow, has contributed to River Journal, Hudson Valley Magazine, Persimmon Tree, Writer Advice, Wow-Women on Writing and others.