I recently chatted with a woman I have never met before while waiting for a set of x-rays at the Doctor’s office. Onex-ray for me and one for her. I was dealing with a cranky knee that acted up during a weight training routine. My new friend didn’t divulge what her x-ray was for and I didn’t ask. It really didn’t matter. After all, if you meet someone in the lobby of the dentist, you don’t discuss if you are having work done on a molar or bicuspid. It’s meaningless information.
The day was wrapped up in magnificent fall colors in Asheville, North Carolina, my new home of 7 weeks. Our conversation led to all the challenges my new confidant was experiencing in her role as caretaker of an elderly mother, who; other than bending and fragile bones, is still a force to contend with.
My conversation partner indicated her Mother is of sound mind, keen on facts, but finds medications and tests for what ails her, a mundane, unpleasant routine. The unpleasant routine falls to the daughter to manage and explain. Conversation skills between the two have been amped up in this later journey of the mother’s life. It’s just not easy to explain to a person why they “must” do something when they don’t really understand what the why means. The ironic part of these conversations is that the daughter clearly remembers many times her mother told her “you must” do something when she was growing up. It seems they have simply traded places in the mother-daughter discussion.
The stories about women and their aging mothers are often the same. We care for them because they can’t. We want to assure their dignity and financial security. My Mother is no longer living and I wonder how well I did at these discussions as her life came to an end. I don’t think I got very high marks on patience and understanding. I trust my Mother forgives me as I haven’t yet forgiven myself.
Our voices met a smooth, balanced cadence as she shared with me her annual challenge of selecting and securing the best Medicare Supplement plan for her mother. She spoke of spreadsheets, coverage analysis and budget forecasting. Somehow the words didn’t match up with what have traditionally been regular mother-daughter activities, but the importance of the work out paced any romantic visions of selecting the latest fashionable clothes, shopping for the most modern shoes and oohing and aahing over jewelry to adorn the ears, neck, wrist or hand.
We found ourselves aggravated for the amount of time we had to wait to be called for our x-rays, but as much: we wanted to continue our dialogue. We certainly did not have enough time to make friends and bond for the years to come, but we had time to listen to one another and care. The caring part was the best of the time we spent.
Later in the afternoon, I took a walk around a local lake and bird sanctuary and noticed scenes that brought back to mind our conversation. Changing colors in the leaves reminded me of the dimming hair color from youth to a mature age. I saw tree limbs that seem like bones, a bit thin, but sturdy. I touched flowers that were popping up between grass and plants that were edging their way out of summer into fall. My vision filled my mind with the depth of our discussion about mothers.
Many of us are on a journey from children and adults to our mother’s servant. It’s as natural journey as the walk I took around the lake and through the bird sanctuary. The beauty was similar, if not exactly the same.
In many ways, relationships between mothers and daughters are like girlhood friendships. Toss in a few giggles, looks of tenderness mixed with anxiety or annoyance and bone marrow honesty and the sameness fills our hearts. Lovely. Thank you my new friend for sharing. I learned how to be a better mother, sister, aunt, colleague and friend from your lesson. No test required.
Gezil (Kristin) Andrews is new to blogging, but not new to writing. She first wrote a poem for her mother at age 12 and is still working hard to get the dangling participles, pronouns and adjectives in all the right places. Welcome.