I often see things on social media which suggest to me that, even as I watch my mother age, as I also age, I’ll remember her more as she was when she was young. Or at the very least, I’ll remember her as she was when I was young. Though when I consider this, after having had my mother living with me for nearly a year, I’ll suggest they are optimistic reminders of a reality which won’t exist. I’ve mostly forgotten the mother of my youth.
As she continues to age, and as her physical and cognitive abilities lessen, the images in my head of my mother in her youth fade more each year, giving way to the more indelible imprints of my mother as she is today. This is not a bad thing. Five years from now, 10 years from now, or even 20, I’m sure I won’t want to think too much or remember too well the mother of my youth, but I will be grateful to remember my mother of today.
When I think of her then, as she was when I was young, compared to how I see her now, there is an absence of much. True, the mother of my youth could hike, swim, stay up late, and prepare a holiday feast for 12 in less than 3 hours, but there was yet to be the earned dignity which now defines her.
Today, as her steps become shaky, as her voice quivers, and as her hands resemble road maps with stains on them, the wisdom, the experience, and survivalism that come with these, add up to a dignity which I do want to remember her with.
This is a good reminder to me that, as bright and capable as I feel I am today, I have yet to pay my real dues. The dues I speak of are not the dues of career, of parenthood, or of middle-age responsibilities. The dues my mother has paid – those she continues to pay, are the most important dues of all. These are the dues of having it all, and of having it all slowly slip away, yet waking up each day to live a little more despite the inevitable decline of all things material, all things physical, and many things cognitive.
I am grateful that I will remember my mother as person who falls asleep watching Jeopardy, who heats up a Stouffer’s creamed corn casserole for dinner rather than attempt to make one from scratch, who often calls me by my brother’s name, and who asks me the same damned questions again and again – all day long.
This person – this mother of mine now, is the mother that reminds me daily that I will be more like her in the not-too distant future, than the me I am today. This mother, not the mother of my youth, is the woman who reminds me that it’s a fool’s task to believe in or even pursue perpetual youth, and that dignity comes only from letting go of youth, and letting go of all those things that, as time proves to us all, never mattered that much to begin with. Be well… rc
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