When Mom’s legs weakened, she struggled with her declining independence. I had a hard time accepting that the woman who had held my hand when I took my first steps needed help taking hers. At my age, I doubted I had the stamina to take care of another human being 24/7. However, Mom needed help with daily chores, and just as she is once came to my aid when I had a scratch on my knee, I rushed to help.
By the time mum needed mothering, she had raised two daughters, lost one, been widowed and maintained a career until retirement at 74. Along the way, she developed opinions on everything, all different from mine. She had routines that no one could change, let alone her daughter. Although I had Mom’s best interests in mind, she had a mind of her own. Sometimes she forgot what day it was, but she never let me forget that I was the child of the relationship.
Very early, I understood the standards that mom had imposed on me when I was growing up no longer existed and she had new rules. I tried to strike a balance between letting an older woman eat whatever she wanted and making her eat healthy, but I learned early on to choose my battles with mom and that wasn’t one of them.
Mom often dozed off in the chair after lunch, but I didn’t realize the importance of that afternoon nap until we had a three o’clock doctor’s appointment. The doctor asked Mom if anything was bothering her, and without hesitation she said, “You’re bothering me. My blood pressure skyrocketed, and my cheeks flushed with embarrassment that didn’t let me forget to schedule all future appointments before noon.
Aside from in front of the television, Mom liked nowhere else to spend time except the dollar store—modern-day five-ten, as she called it. When we took a trip to the dollar store on her 86and birthday, I bought her the adult coloring books and crayons she wanted. She said it was her best birthday. That’s until the following year, when on his birthday, we played bingo for prizes.
One day when I was folding the laundry and matching pairs of mum’s white ankle socks, I heard a Dairy Queen commercial on her TV in the next room. Mom called for ice cream, and it hit me. I never had children, but my nest was not empty. In my 60s, I became something of a first-time mother, however, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I gave thanks for the extra time I spent with my mother; time that I wouldn’t have had if she hadn’t needed mothering the last years of her life.
As soon as I learned to speak, my mother taught me the importance of saying please and thank you. She practiced what she preached. At the end of each day, she thanked me as I settled her into bed for the night and, of course, put the TV remote in her hand.
However, something in his eyes told me that his appreciation went beyond me leaving his slippers close at hand and turning on the nightlight.
Donna Landi, a resident of Sleepy Hollow, helped river log, Hudson Valley Magazine, Persimmon Tree, Writer’s tips, Wow-Women on writing and others.