My mom’s birthday is next month. She’ll be 86 and lives in a retirement community about three hours away.
I went over yesterday to take her to a doctor’s appointment, something that happens less frequently than one would think at her age but increasingly often. She’s getting more feeble, both mentally and physically, as the years take their toll. Sometimes her thoughts get lost mid-sentence and her short-term memory is not as good as it once was. She’s a little unsteady on her feet and tires easily, so I’ve convinced her to use a wheelchair when we go out. That took some doing in itself.
My mom is from another generation. Still no computers or internet, she was raised on a small farm in rural, southeast Georgia, and moved to the “big” city of Macon after graduating from high school. There, she met my dad, fell in love and got married. Shortly after I was born, they bought a small house in the suburbs. She quit work to stay home and raise a family. She bore two more sons-only two of us left, the third dying in childbirth.
They lived in that house for 44 years until they moved to the retirement home. They were married for 57 years, their only marriage. That has to be a record and one that neither my brother nor I will ever match. She has endured a lot in her years, but she is strong and a woman of great faith, a faith that I can only envy. She’s never been on an airplane and never even learned to drive.
After her appointment, I took her back to her home, as she now calls it. I took the wheelchair out of the back of my SUV, walked around and opened the passenger door. She was tired, getting in and out of a car, up and down on an exam table, and was having trouble getting out of the high seat. I leaned over and said, “Mama, put your arm around my neck and let me help you.”
She placed a frail arm around my neck and I helped her get out of the vehicle and into her wheelchair. Her arm lingered and she pulled me close to her face.
“Thank you,” she said. “I love you.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I was struck by the incongruity of the situation. The arms that had fed me, nurtured me and comforted me were now wrapped around my neck and she was thanking me.
“No, Mama,” I said, “Thank you. I love you too.”