One of my greatest blessings in life has been my mother. And the fact that I have been able to provide a home for her for the past 15-plus years has been great for her, for me, and especially for my two girls. They grew up with her love, her stories, her cooking, her humor.
She's 88 now, and still living on the third floor of my house. The doctors say the stairs are good for her, and she has always loved the Far Away And Yet So Close proximity. She calls it her "aerie", an eagle's nest. She's always been independent, was widowed at 52, worked till she was in her 70s. A case of shingles, which attacked her spine, was the first blow to that independence. She was no longer able to walk confidently, had given up her car keys due to hearing and sight problems. Some major and minor health issues. Now she seldom leaves the third floor.
It's so easy to write about the wonderfulness of my mother. The downside is the awfulness of me.
I wonder about my life and how it might have been if I had been mistress of my own house.
I was distanced from that title initially because I worked in the city, commuting by train, bus and foot for thirty years. My husband the artist works out of our home and has always had a far more nurturing and organic approach to life. When I would return from a day of work, I would immediately head for the bathroom to lock myself in and decompress for a while. He would head for the kitchen and see what magic he could toss together. This worked for us through the early years of marriage and kids.
We moved to a big fixer-upper, my mother left her home with her older sister and moved in with us. Over the years, the main conflicts were when she and my husband stepped on each other's toes in the kitchen.
I'm in my 60s now and this is The Decade of Reflection. I lost my 50s (The Decade of Things Fall Apart) due to depression and have woken up to see how much I've missed. My girls are grown and, while they aren't "settled", they are doing a pretty good job of managing their lives. I no longer work, having discovered I'm not that good at playing with others. I think I've developed a form of PTSD and my brain no longer functions when stressed. Performance anxiety. But I have woken up! I'm re-energized - some days. Until I interact with my mother and am once again in the pit of despair.
She's difficult. She can't hear. She's cranky. And the worst: My beloved and well-meaning brothers bought her a laptop so she could communicate with the world. (The telephone is a problem due to deafness.) However. They bought her a PC and we are Mac people. 100%. Do not know or understand the PC. They bought it, ran through it with her, then left for opposite sides of the country. I have no patience. She wants nachos. I feel bad. She feels bad. I leave.
I retreat to the couch, where I spend FAR TOO MUCH TIME. I'm thinking bad thoughts about how much I suck. I think of the fact that I've never had my own home. She ran my childhood home and she's still in many ways running this home. And you know what? Her mother did not live with her. She had her own home. And now she's had mine.
Then I think of this space and hope my story resonates with someone out there.
And my husband passes by the door to change her password yet again. With a bag of nachos.