Last Saturday, I debated. Was it worth the typical airline hassles and expense to fly from Asheville to New York for less than a week? Spend five hours traveling each way to spend only two and a half days in my old hometown? I admit that I kind of agonized over this decision, when truthfully it should have been a no-brainer – lead with the heart. And so I did.
Monday, February 20, was Mom’s 88th birthday. The primary seduction. She hasn’t complained – she rarely does - but it’s a tough time of year for her, especially this year. Beyond the ordinary winter blues that get us all down, this would be the first Valentine’s Day and birthday and anniversary (in March) without her husband of sixty-five years. I knew my brother, Josh, Mom’s on-site support, was planning to take her out for lunch and a movie, since her birthday coincided with the Presidents’ Day holiday, giving him the day off. I so wanted to fill out the table, celebrate with them, and extend the festivities for her fa couple of days longer. Mike encouraged me to go. And yet, neurotically, I wavered back and forth about the travel and expense (I’m pretty much a weenie about flying these days; I know not why.)
Then I got word that the father of one of my longtime, hometown friends had passed away and the funeral was scheduled for the morning of the day after Mom’s big day. I had to also factor in the unusually warm winter we’re having, which negated the possibility of snow on the ground or ice on the wings (do you hear the weenie-whimper?) And when I checked, there were seats available. So I hit US Air with my credit card, doubled the casserole recipe I was making for a potluck dinner on Sunday to cover Mike for the few days I’d be out of town, and packed my bag.
Did I ever make the right decision. Monday Josh, Mom and Elda, Mom’s part time aide, enjoyed lunch on Josh at the Red Lobster (Mom’s choice). Though it seemed like more food than any one person could or should consume at a single sitting, it was a pleasure to watch Mom enjoy every morsel of the Shrimp and Lobster Trio off the special menu. Later the three of us skipped dinner in favor of tall glasses of milk and chocolate birthday cake.
Tuesday Josh took Mom for her annual mammogram (he’s honestly the best caretaker EVER). Then I dropped him at his office and went back to the house to pick Mom up, since she insisted on going with me to pay her respects to “her other daughter’s” father. A stop at Ben’s Deli right across the street from the funeral home provided a speedy lunch so that we could get back home again, to pick up Elda, and dash to a nearby theater for the matinee showing of “The Descendants”, Mom’s pick for a birthday movie (?). We then blew down the express lane to pick Josh up from work so as to not add too much overtime to his day when he generously gave us the car so we could gad about. When we returned home, Mom was contentedly tired.
Wednesday we enjoyed a day at home and had a family powwow after dinner to do Mom’s tax return prep so we can ultimately (with a bit more follow-up once I get back to Asheville) send her records over to cousin Larry, CPA. She gets around inside and out with her walker, but it takes a great deal of energy for her to move in and out of the car, so she was happy to stay in after two unusually active days. My back had “gone out” by itself, meaning a trip to my brother’s chiro (chauffeured by another good old friend) and an afternoon of lying flat was, literally, just what the doctor ordered.
I think there are many reasons underlying my resistance to traveling to New York. The hassle of getting there, the infamous NY traffic and impatient attitudes (unwarranted, in my opinion, horns, shoving, cursing), and the inconvenience of living out of a suitcase, usually with my husband and our dog to consider as well as Mom and Josh. But when I am honest with myself, my hesitation has more to do with seeing the physical and mental changes each time I see my mother even after only a two month hiatus. Mom and I speak or Skype daily, sometimes more than that. But a close up on a 14” screen and her standard response to “how ya doing today?”
“Fine, thank you. How are you?”
It’s just not the same as being together in person.
Mom is shrinking in so many ways – the effect of age and the diet she’s put herself on. She grows more childlike in attention span and less inhibited about doing what she wants when she wants as the months, let alone the years, go by. Yet she is still relatively sharp, a voracious reader, immensely kind and considerate, and - she’s a fountain of love. I feel that we’re closer today than ever before in my life. There’s no adequate digital way to give a hug or a kiss or a back scratch or a neck and shoulder rub, and I hate to be faced with the reality that there may not be that many more birthdays to celebrate.
Bottom line? I am sooooo glad I rose beyond my neuroses to be there this week to do all of the above with my Mom, the sweetest pea in the pod.