My parents are 80 years old. My Mom had her birthday last month and my Dad is this spring. It is becoming more and more apparent I won’t have them around forever and so the time I spend with them becomes precious.
My blogging buddy Andra Watkins speaks about the importance of making memories. She walked the Natchez Trace with her Dad, and then wrote a book about her experience: Not Without My Father. She’s got a twitter feed at #makeamemory where people share their stories.
When we asked my Mom what she wanted for her 80th birthday she said she wanted to go out with just her girls. This isn’t as simple as it sounds. There are schedules to shuffle, kids to arrange for, and some history of unpleasantness between us. But it’s what she wanted, so I got on the phone.
We kept it a secret until Mom’s actual birthday. Then my middle sister (the one who lives closest) gave her a card with an “invitation” inside. Lunch with your daughters, January 2nd. She was SO excited! We didn’t “do Christmas” until just this past weekend so it was nice for her to have something to carry her through the actual holiday.
Even on the day we had a few minor scheduling issues. I volunteered to pick up my little sister and forgot she’s outside of the GPS maps so we were a little late arriving. My middle sister was babysitting and needed to drop off her Grandson “on the way”. She was driving Mom, who also wanted to stop and pick up a few groceries.
In the end we all made it to lunch. The waitress snapped a photo to prove it. It was a pleasant leisurely afternoon. We sat and ate and chit-chatted about nothing important. We kept it all light and friendly.
My Mom was thrilled. She still talks about how wonderful it was for us to do that for her. She says finally, for the first time in her life, she got exactly what she wanted for her birthday. We made her a memory.
For me, it’s not the lunch that’s the memory. It’s being able to make my Mother so happy, with such a simple thing. Aging is hard for her. She struggles to continue to be relevant, to be heard, to participate and she does better than she thinks. But this day, for her birthday lunch, she could be the center of attention, “the Mom”, and not have to work at all.
It’s an odd season for renewal, but it’s necessary. When you think clearly about it, harvesting is a part of renewal. You are clearing the way for new growth in the spring. My first step in that whole “back-to-school” mindset is of course the last dash vacation of Labor Day weekend.
Orion and I spent the weekend up North with my folks (his Oma and Opa). That means a lot of things. There is that daughter sense of wanting to make things easier for my aging parents. I make a point of keeping up with our laundry (or my Mother will do it.) I try to wipe down the bathtubs and showers when I use them (especially the parts that get dusty and I know my Mom can’t quite reach.) I run interference in the ongoing power struggle between my folks, giving my Dad occasional validation and my Mom a break from the constant whine.
There is also the daughter sense of “take care of me!” Mom and Dad cook (because food is love) and I will love whatever ends up on the table in spite of myself. I will gladly take Mom’s gas card and fill my tank. I’m happy to let Orion and Dad have “bonding time” over Orion getting his morning bath, and dressed. (Hey, they’re both morning people and it’s usually done before I roll out of bed.) Orion and Dad have a thing, that started way back when Dad went to Language Camp as Orion’s aid. That’s where Opa comes from, and of course Oma goes along with it.
And that is the core of my vacation. Mom and Dad are busy. This weekend involved marching in a parade and going to the Union picnic (that’s two days of stuff). The nice thing is Orion LOVES to tag along. So I sent them off on Saturday to the parade without me. I puttered. I could do this at home when Orion is at his day program, but here there’s always something (like dishes) pressing. There I really can kick back and if I wander off not feel pressured to be back before Orion gets home. It was amazingly refreshing.
I also would like to note that Mom and Dad are not connected to the internet. Because of a family emergency I ended up on-line via my phone to my cousin on Friday evening, but by Saturday I was done. I did pull out the computer Saturday evening for a bit of writing, but didn’t touch it for the rest of the time I was up there. It wasn’t a total tech detox. I am back on the internet within an hour of getting home – getting this blog together and checking my mail. But it was a reminder how much nicer it is to read books than Facebook messages all day.
I’m very lucky to still have my parents. It’s a treat to spend time with them. It’s a treat to let them spend time with Orion and be left alone. It’s a privilege to help out in the small ways that I can. And it’s a great place to go for renewal.
Have a great week and a bounteous harvest!