This weekend I’m in Charleston tending to my mother as she recovers from having her gall bladder removed. I say ‘tending’ lightly because she stubbornly refuses to let me do anything for her. I came armed with my DVD collection and a motley array of novels expecting a weekend of heating up soup for my barely conscious mother — I only added a sundress and my makeup as an afterthought to my pile of sweats and yoga pants. Instead, less than 24 hours after having an organ removed my mother is dragging me out of the house to traipse down the aisles of Publix and peruse shelves at a local used book store (Mr. K’s is my new image of heaven by the way, but I’ll get to that later.) I’m surprised at her energy and inability to stay seated for more than half an hour, but I’m not in the least disappointed. We’ve been in need of a good visit and this is by far one of the best we’ve had in a long time. I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I am “absolutely pleasant to be around” as my mother phrased it this morning. This may be largely because I’ve toned down on the ego, am less prone to horrendous emotional mood swings, and have managed to generally realize that my existence isn’t the only one that matters.
Another thing my mother did today was remind me how I’ve been neglecting my writing. “When are you going to write another blog post?” she asked. For once, I’m doing as I’m subtly told.
I’ve been pondering lately my relationship with my family. I was curious why, after 25 plus years, I was suddenly feeling a deeper connection. In conversation with my mother yesterday evening I had a rare light bulb moment. I was burrowed deep into the cushions of the couch sipping on the comforting flavors of French vanilla chai when I noticed the glint of gold under the bookshelf. A familiar album was peaking out at me. I recalled my mother pulling the book out several times — of my sister and I half-mindedly flipping through it over the years, but this time it was different. This time I walked eagerly to the bookshelf and lovingly tugged it out from under. I took the album over to the couch and opened it with a new anticipation. And this time first, before opening it’s pages, I turned to my mother and said “Can you tell me about the day you met my father?” Her eyes first registered surprise, and then delight. This time as I turned the pages, looking at my young parents each taking turns holding me but staring at each other behind the camera, I saw it differently. This time they weren’t looking out at me, but at each other. All the feelings my mother described as she was clearly transported to another time and place were there– in the wide, unguarded smiles, and in the meaningful stares. I felt a shift, similar to the moment when I stood on the street’s of Rome staring at the grandeur of the Coliseum — my parents’ lives were every bit as dynamic and fraught with emotion as mine.
For years I’d seen my parents, my siblings, my aunts, my uncles, my grandparents and everyone else as merely players in my life. At some point I had not only realized they had lives outside of my existence, but I’d actually wanted to know about them. When I started to ask questions about others instead of waiting to answer questions about myself — that’s when I finally go it right.
My mother’s love story isn’t the only one I’d inquired about that day. While together in the hospital waiting room yesterday morning I’d had the chance to pick my Aunt Lee’s brain. She and my Uncle Chris have been married over twenty years and it’s one of the longest running marriages I’ve ever seen first-hand. I wanted to know how they met; how she knew he was the one. Trying to recall exactly how long they’d been together a smile tugged at my Aunt Lee’s lips, a shine filled her eyes, and she said, “You know what, it feels like just yesterday.”