My mom’s black cane stands against the grey wall in the corner of our garage. Sometimes I pause and hear the slow beat of its dance, as I manuever my car into its place. On the exact opposite wall, my daughter’s pink princess bike is parked, the basket in front screams of youth and blank slates.
I am in the center, the adult, between my mom, the senior citizen, and my daughter, just a few months shy of her fifth birthday. It’s a precarious place to be, watching my daughter at the entrance of anticipation, while my mother experiences the ache of widowhood. I see-saw between two extremes, trying to balance the needs of both.
I find myself comforting my daughter when she cries, the loudness of her angst, vibrates through the walls, the catalyst from simple frustrations like not being able to string her hand through her sleeve. My mom will also suddenly break into tears, remembering some specific memory about my father, like how much he liked Taco Bell hot sauce. On nights my husband and I decide to do a date night, I make certain both my mom and my daughter have dinner before we leave, ensuring their tummies are full so they can sleep well. On weekends, I play chauffeur, shuffling my daughter to a playdate, while dropping my mom off at the mall. When they are both asleep, I check my daughter’s school schedule to make certain I haven’t missed an important something and then minutes later, I switch to a calculator and checkbook, paying my mom’s bills.
As I pass by mom’s room, in our house, there is a part of me that doesn’t want her to be here. I don’t want to open the bathroom cabinet and see the medicine she has to take to push through this life or to hear her cry in the middle of the night, the pain only her pillow understands. For just a second, I want her to have her old life. Her life with my father, sharing tea on their dining room table, my dad teasing her about too much sugar and her poking him in the ribs. I want to walk into the house and be the kid again, touching my father’s bald head, high-fiving my sister, and letting my mom hug me and asking me how I am doing.
I can list all of the times when I thought I was an adult, from turning 18 to graduating law school or my first real job or getting married or having a baby. I’ve learned that milestone moments do not define the foray into adulthood. I entered adulthood when roles reversed. I am the real mother of my daughter, and after my father passed, the symbolic mother of my own mom.
I’m not a kid anymore.
When did you become an adult? Was there a defining moment ?
This is a beautiful and bittersweet reflection, Rudri. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into this particular moment of your life.
Have you read Kelly Corrigan’s The Middle Place? In it, she reflects on this same tension between mothering our kids and mothering our parents. I suspect it might resonate with you.
Thanks Kristen for your lovely words. I have picked up Kelly Corrigan’s The Middle Place several trimes, but have difficulty working through the emotions to read it. You are right, her words resonate with me so much I have to read her work in spurts. Have you read her book Lift? A very nice and succinct look at motherhood and everything in-between. I was fortunate and heard her speak this year. She is just as charming in person.
Rudri. This is beautiful and profound. I am not in this place such as you. I do not live with or even near my parents. But I can understand this feeling of the “sandwich” generation, it is called. In fact, you have already gone through the loss of one parent… but I once read in a quote in someone’s article that “you don’t really become an adult until you lose your mother.”
Ugh. I can’t even really keep typing here. I’m starting to get teary-eyed. And lo and behold, what is required of me at this moment? Being “The Mom” and getting my daughters breakfast.
So good morning, Dear Friend. Love you.
I appreciate your comment and know that I’ve had so many discussions with you regarding this subject. I remember you telling me when we reached our thirties, that this would be a hard time, parenting our own children and possibly confronting the loss of our parents.
Love ya too.
Rudri, your thoughtful reflections never cease amaze me.
I can’t imagine what a heavy load to bear this can seem like sometimes, but you describe it with absolute grace. Your daughter and your mother are both lucky to have an adult like you to lean on.
Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I appreciate your gracious compliment. It is a heavy load at times, but I am priviliged to be in a position where I can take care of both of them.
This post resonates with me. I was raising my sons and at the same time I was taking care of my parents. I was measuring out the medications and I was making sure they were taking them. At times I felt like I was becoming the parent. Then my dad passed away and my mom followed 16 months later. As difficult as times got with my mom , I wish I could be still doing it. I think of them every day . I didn’t feel much as a kid when I had the challenge of caring for my parents but I still knew that they thought of me as a kid . Now, no one is left to see me that way.
I can’t believe you lost both of your parents in such a short time span. My heart goes out to you and I am incredibly sorry for your loss. It is certainly difficult. I remember my sister measuring out medications for my father. Within 3 weeks, I remember throwing those same bottles after he passed. And I certainly know what you mean about thinking of them everyday. Thanks so much for sharing your story.
I remember my mom being there. But her parents lived far away. Somedays I would come home and I didn’t know if she would be there or not. The uncertainty was tactile. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to have my mother come and live with me, but I would prefer that I think. I think you are doing a courageous thing.
My heart goes out to you.
I appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us.
It is difficult at times having my mother live with us, but there are enormous gifts that she gives me and my own family. My daughter and her cook together and she teaches her a few things about our religion. She is a comforting presence and I am lucky that I get the opportunity to share our space with her.
You are doing a wonderful job taking care of your mother. She is very lucky.
When I finally stopped living for outside approval I became an adult.
When you spoke of hearing your mom cry in the middle of the night – well, it broke my heart.
Rudri, you have no idea how much this resonates with me. My mom will be living with us in a few months (and she has come to stay a few months at a time before) and I too find the role reversal a little hard to deal with, especially when I’m also mom to my daughter now.
Being an only child and without a responsible dad, my mom has become dependent on me and while I’m grateful to her for all that she’s done for me and will gladly take care of her in return, sometimes it weighs heavily on me when I realize that now I have to be responsible for both my own kid(s) and my mother.
This is the part of adulthood that has always scared me and now that I’m here, I don’t know if I’m ready for it.
I know it can be daunting thinking about living with your Mom and taking care of Little Miss. It was a giant adjustment for me when my mom first moved in with us. I assume it was an equally difficult adjustment for my mom. There was a definite give and take and I’ll admit some tears, but we got through it. Just breathe and learn to work through the transitional period.
I too relate to this on many levels. Perhaps just the virtual (and more tangibly “real”) compassion we in the middle can offer each other might contribute to a more compassionate sunset on our own fast moving life cycles. Namaste either way
Oh my gosh. This touched me so. I always tease my Mom about being old ladies together (she’s only 20 years older than me), but it will be so hard to watch her age. You are a beautiful woman.
Thanks so much for your lovely compliment. I am certain you and your Mom will age gracefully together.
Oh this is beautiful, Rudri. Sad and yet breathtaking.
And this: “I’ve learned that milestone moments do not define the foray into adulthood.” Yes yes and yes.
Just today, actually, I was driving in my car from one responsibility to another, disbelieving that I was in charge of so much. I repeated to myself, over and over, “you are an adult, you are an adult…” Yes. Just today. It seems I have to remind myself of this often, as I never quite feel equipped to handle all that is on my plate. I’m nearly taken by surprise each morning to have three smallish children in my house, under my care, chirping for food and juice and cuddles at 6 am.
Also, I agree with Kristen, read The Middle Place. It is beautiful. And breathtaking. Just like this post.
I don’t drop by nearly often enough. But every time I do, I’m taken with your writing and your perspective. Your calm, yet deliberate, deliverance of your thoughts and your world. And your grace.
As I told Kristen, I’ve picked up Middle Place so many times, but cannot finish it. Her words ring so true and resonate with me after watching my father deal with his cancer. I’ve had the privilege of listening to her speak and she is a witty and charming in person.
I appreciate your compliment on my writing. To be honest, the blogosphere helps me elevate my own writing. I’ve been struck by the words of so many. I am so glad we connected in this space.
I clicked over to your blog after reading a comment you left somewhere else about reading Dani Shapiro’s Devotion, a book I read and liked, as well, and also prompted me to make a few visits to kripalu.
Anyway, I’m glad I clicked over and found this space of yours. Beautiful writing…while I haven’t been where you are, I felt what you wrote here.
Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I appreciate your words on my writing. Dani Shapiro’s book is certainly full of some good wisdom.
I will just say how beautiful this is, and poignant. And inevitable that we become the caretakers of our parents. If we are fortunate.
This is beautiful, and deeply touching. My parents are older, my mom will be 65 this year, my dad is 77. I know one of these days, something will happen. It’s a road I keep stopping myself from going down.
Things were so much easier when we were kids. When it was our parents who protected us from so much. I suppose, as time moves on, it’s time to repay the favor.
I understand the anticipation of that road. But I am a firm believer that you aren’t given anything you can’t handle. For now, enjoy the relationship that your have with them.
It’s been said, but this post is achingly beautiful — both for the range of emotions you capture and the reality you present. Thank you for sharing it with us.
I think I became an adult early in life due to circumstances outside my control, but I hope that it is a different story for my children.
Thanks so much for your comment. I think everyone’s pathway to adulthood is different and when it happens there really is no turning back.