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To everything there is a season

April 08, 2002|BY KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

"You're twisted," my daughter said to me recently.

No, she wasn't talking about my psyche - although we both enjoyed the double-entrendre.

Maggie was talking about my overalls as she unbuckled and reversed the strap I had fastened backwards.

A little flash of dj vu: Righting bib straps was something I did hundreds of times for my kids when they were little.

The overalls were no big deal. I haven't totally lost it. I've been rushed and careless about dressing more than once over the years - misbuttoned blouses, two different colored socks, different shoes.

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But I feel like a lot more than that strap was reversed last weekend while my kids and I visited my Mom in New Jersey.

We're talking roles here: My 22-year-old daughter was fixing my overalls. I was helping to take care of my mother.

I got hit with a giant-sized apple bouncing from the parent branch of the family tree - the realization that we are entering new territory.

My mom had surgery the morning of the night we arrived - not too big a deal, I pray - requiring general anesthesia but not an overnight hospital stay. That anesthesia made her sick the next morning, and to be sure it was nothing more, the doctor told my sister, Maureen, to take her to the emergency room.

Mom felt better by the time we got there. We all were reassured, so it was worth the trip.

Visiting my childhood home always does funny things to my head. My old room seems tiny now.

My perspective has changed, yes. But it's not just me. The world is changing, too.

Newsflash, Kate: Your 83-year-old mother really is 83 years old.

She's a tough one. She's lived alone since my father died 14 years ago; she drives, cooks and, despite falling down the stairs and breaking her hip last year, still insists on going to the basement to do her own laundry. She had a railing installed, and swears she holds on to it.

She also is holding on to her independence - as fiercely as my kids were fighting for theirs when I was straightening their overall buckles.

Although my sisters and I haven't been brave enough to suggest it outright, my mother scoffs at the thought of living anywhere other than the split-level house she and my dad built in 1955.

Retirement community? Phooey!

My mom is the one who has taken care of everyone and everything for as long as I can remember.

As soon as I arrive for a visit, she asks me when I plan to leave.

Not because she wants me gone. Rather, it's to see how many meals she can pack into me before I go.

She recently got a new roof, new front-porch railing and new windows and vertical blinds in the living room. She laughs that she'll probably die as soon as she gets everything fixed up. Of course, my sisters and I know she's not making the improvements for herself. She wants the house to be easier for her daughters to sell when she does go.

Mom doesn't like people "doing things" for her. She fusses about the nice across-the-street neighbor who sneaks over to shovel her driveway when it snows and puts her daily newspaper in the mailbox holder so she doesn't have to go out on the porch to get it. She rails against my sisters' wanting to drive her to the doctor's office. Entering this "new territory," accepting help that's given in friendship, help that's given in love, is not an easy journey for my mother.

I've reminded her of something an elderly woman told her when Mom didn't feel comfortable about accepting a gift. "You take the pleasure out of the giving," she told my mother.

She can help us by letting us help.

To every thing, turn, turn, turn.

Twisted, indeed.

Kate Coleman is a Herald-Mail Lifestyle staff writer.

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