At home

So, there I was, two weeks ago, boarding ticket in hand, bags packed and ready to go see my ailing Mom. The fridge was stocked, my guys had hugged me 2 million times and all there was left to do was to just get there already.

Not really knowing what I was headed into, I can look back now and admit that I was a mess.  The flying was uneventful but I sure wasn’t.  Sitting in MSP airport I watched as a young girl interact with her grandmother… and silently I cried.   Standing behind a woman buying soup, I watched her rest her hand on her daughter’s head and silently I cried.  Working my way through customs, I did my best to stand purposefully and move the line along and when the Immigration Agent politely asked the purpose of my visit, silently, yep, I cried.

You see, I just couldn’t say the words out loud and this was the big secret I carried: the fact that this trip felt different. This trip frightened me. I couldn’t acknowledge how this trip felt bigger than many of those that had come before it.

So …. as most of us do … I held myself in check and choked out short answers like, “Just visiting family” to airport inquiries and prayed my watery eyes wouldn’t betray me.

But when I got through customs and into the receiving area, I lost it.  Spotting my other sister, the one I’m not as close to as I once was, I can only imagine now how much my sobs must have confused her.

It’s been a long summer.  There’s been a lot of uncertainty.  A lot of “what ifs” and a too many miles separating me from the rest of them.

But … so much of that melted away when I walked into my oldest sister’s home and spotted Mom comfortably ensconced in her sun room.  Her face lifted and when those eyes met mine, the grins were undeniable and then, well … that’s when the tears came.

After the hugs and the how-are-yous, we found ourselves settling into a new normal. I’ve never stayed anywhere but with her on the farm because there’s an unwritten rule that my time is always, always spent on her. Well, Mom was at Sissy’s and now, so was I.

What I didn’t realize until I got there was the role I would take.  Yes I knew I would comfort, cheer and engage but I soon found myself supporting my sister as she did the work to nurse Mom back to health.  I found a spot at her sink, washing dishes and cleaning garden vegetables. I found myself folding towels and at her range, simmering soups and whipping up favorite icings.  I found myself up early with my brother-in-law, brewing coffee and crafting omelettes and doing everything I could think of to make it easy. I made myself available so Sissy could step away for a break, a shower, a moment.

After several days we moved Mom back to her house and I saw a change in her that I hadn’t expected:  I saw her at home, in her element, and back in control.  I watched as she whipped her oxygen cord around like a lariat and laughed when I got myself caught in it.  I delighted in the fact that it was her little  face that I kissed good night and her sweet smile greeting me morning after morning. And when I caught myself standing at her sink washing vegetables or at her range simmering supper, I realized that I’d come home, too.

It wasn’t just that I’d come home to the place I’d grown up — but that I’d come home to a role she’d taught me — one I’ve grown familiar with over the years: that of being useful, of having a purpose, of offering up my assistance with a heaping helping of good cheer peppered with absolutely no b.s.

But it was when those little arms wrapped around me late at night and she expressed her appreciation for my just being there, I don’t mind telling you that those moments – those exact moments –  those were the most wonderful. Why?  Because they gave me the opportunity to pull her close and whisper “it’s been my pleasure.”

Me & Mom on her 82nd birthday. 8/21/12

How about you? Have you ever “gone home” again only to find yourself in a different role than the one you’d expected?

Categories: Faith, Family, Home, Mom, Personal, Thoughts, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

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43 thoughts on “At home

  1. Good for you. It is so hard seeing our parents age. Mine are both gone, but my mother-in-law is nearby and it is heart-wrenching.

    You are a good daughter and a good sister.

    • You are so right, Elyse, it is very hard to see them age. I do my best to be a good daughter & sister but the distance I’ve put between us as a young girl doesn’t aid me much now! Thank you for your concern & understanding, MJ

  2. Great to have you back MJ!! Been thinking of you and your visit with your mother.

    Love the new photo of the preserves in the cellar. I can almost feel the chill and smell the cellar. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, RR. I had a feeling you’d love that preserves photo; I took it at my sister’s … she’d sent me downstairs for jam and when I found the “room under the stairs” I knew the photo opportunity it presented. We could probably eat off her cellar supplies for close to 2 years! 🙂 MJ

  3. Aw, what a great post, MJ!! Love the picture of you and your Mom; she looks like a little spit-fire! I can just imagine how difficult it was for you to travel, having such a heavy heart. I’m glad things were better than you had anticipated, and hope your Mom continues to do well for a long, long time. It’s so sad to lose them…

    • Thank you, Dianna. It was very hard to travel and hold myself together; the situation was calm but uncertain when I first arrived but I could see progress with every passing day. I think she has made some good strides and is determined to stay in her own home. I can’t fault her for that! I am thankful for the efforts of my siblings and sister in law for they do more than I can from here. Cheers! MJ

  4. What a lovely post. Yes, I received a call a year ago almost to the day (Aug. 30, 2011) from a friend of my parents, letting me know that they had found my mother in her home on the floor, where she had been for 2 days. At the time, my father was between hospital and rehab facility. I flew across country and jumped into the role of caregiver. I dropped my life for a month and was once again living in the house where I grew up. By the time I left them, I had found in home care for them. It was quite a learning experience: dealing with hospitals, rehab facilities, visiting nurses, and in home care.

    • Holy smokes you went right into the center of the frying pan! I feel for you, and for how daunting all of that was. I trust that both of your parents did well with the in home care and I respect you greatly for picking up and getting it done, not all would do so. MJ

  5. Wonderful post… glad to have you back and glad you were surprised by how well your mom is doing 🙂 Our moms are the same age and I have the same fears you do. It’s one of the reasons I’m going home next month… for good (or for now… lol).

    • Thank you, Sandi. I am so glad you are going home and I’ll bet that your sweet Mom is as well! My Mom has had quite a rough go of it this summer but it looks like she’s turned the corner — we just hope this is the path that things continue one. The angst comes with the fact that one never really knows and we all sort of hold our breath hoping there’s no “next” go around. Bests to you! MJ

  6. thanks for taking us along (vicariously) on your trip to see your mom..and the behind the scene stuff too. I’m honored you would share this with us. Even when we grow up, there’s still a part of us that is that little kid. I know that’s true in my case. DM

    • Oh I agree, “even when we grow up, there’s still a part of us that is still that little kid.” So, so true.

      We hosted my favorite Auntie for lunch and I had great fun seating the two of them at the table and taking their “orders” for grilled sandwiches to accompany my homemade vegetable chowder. They chortled and laughed, giggled and gossiped and I got to fuss over them for once. Big doings, and big smiles all around.

      Thank you for weighing in, MJ

  7. Helen

    Sweet, Marilyn, sweet.

  8. My eyes are a bit misty. I’m glad you found things better than anticipated. For your mom to go home to the farm was huge. Such a happy birthday photo.
    As I put my mother on the plane with my brother and family as they flew to nephew’s wedding, she gave me a two page letter of her “affairs.” “What is this?”, I thought. She’s in excellent health for her age, but still the letter was sobering. With daughter expecting any day now and the demands of a new semester, I decided not to go along. “Georgie, you are exactly where you need to be,” she comforted me. “Thank you for staying behind to take care of things.” I don’t think I’m answering your question, but these thoughts are bubbling up.
    So good to see you back! I know where your thoughts must be every hour of every day now. Hugs!

    • .. thank you, Georgette. Yes, there were certainly moments early on in my visit when no mention of her going was made – by her or us. But we learned to take it one day at a time (hard for us “doers” to slow down ..) and she let us know when she was ready.

      Your Mom’s right, you’re just where you need to be… I hope the new baby arrives safely and I hope you’ll let us know when it occurs.

      And you’re right, my thoughts are still with her and we’ve chatted many times .. often enough to check in but not so much that she feels “checked on.”

      Cheers! MJ

  9. cooper

    The home I knew growing up disappeared when I was 20 and my parents went their separate ways and moved into their respective new places. The “new” homes never felt quite the same, even when spending extended time there. I have been surrounded with ‘take charge’ women for years so my role has been a supporting one…even if just supporting the women, as you did with your sister, while the parent vigils progressed…and they all did. It’s never completely the same going home, but the trick is getting comfortable in the new roles…which you appear to have done beautifully.

    • I think I underestimated the importance of the supporting role which you appear to have learned how to do brilliantly. Having always been “in charge” to a certain degree, it was a whole new place to be but I found myself quite comfortable with it. My sister’s face when finding all her clothes washed & folded while Mom napped? Priceless!

      Thank you for understanding 🙂


  10. What a wonderful picture of you and your Mom, MJ. I am glad she is feeling better and back at her home. Your words were touching. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you, LD. Although I am not a tall woman, I am Goliath in comparison to her wee self. But I love the photo and the joy leaping out of it. She’s my favorite little gal and I think it shows.
      Bests to you,

  11. MJ I know how you feel – my sister is in Phoenix and my Mom lives with here – Mom will be 86 in February and we have had several scares with Mom’s heart – that big heart of her’s has been damaged and the Dr’s can only “fix” so much
    We spend time together as much as we can and call every week if not several times a week
    I tear up every time I think of Mom getting closer to the end of her life but I tear up knowing she will be with Daddy and the Lord
    God Bless

    • Oh that is so hard (the scares) … I know it’s “part of life” and all that but, sometimes, don’t you just wish it could not be? Having said that, at the end of all of it, I’m immensely grateful. Grateful for the gift of kind & loving parents who adored me then and adore me still. I want for nothing in the parent department and, unfortunately, I know many people who do not feel the same.

      My bests to you and your Mom and I do thank you for your kind words and for “getting it.”


      • Yes I thank God every day that I had parents who loved me and I know it – What a comfort when we know we are loved, encouraged and given the gift of true parental love
        god bless

      • Amen to that!
        🙂 MJ

  12. Glad that you were able to spend some good quality time with her. Our parents age so fast when we get older, and it is important to spend as much time as we can with them.
    As to your question at the end of the post, I have been in the position of our roles changing. My parents have always been about an hour away, but when my dad got cancer a few years ago, all of a sudden I was in the position of taking him to chemo and radiation therapy, and doing chores for my mom that my dad used to do when he was well. Since he lost his fight, I have had to help my mom with stuff she can’t really handle, since she has some physical problems also. It seems like it wasn’t all that long ago that my parents were taking care of me, and now it’s the other way around.

    • I feel very fortunate to have had that time together, of course it’s never enough and yes, like you said, it seems they age so quickly all-of-a-sudden.

      You’re a good son to have taken care of not only your Dad, but also your Mum. They taught you well, yes?


  13. What a good daughter and sister you are! I can imagine you silently taking care of everything in the loving way you speak about it. I’ve had you on my mind as I could sense the uncertainty in the previous post. I’m so glad your mom is feeling better – and you too!

    • Thank you, Renee. I really didn’t know what I was headed into; the situation had been very, very dire the week previous to my travels and although things were a bit better, it was still rough waters. Thankfully the little peanut rallied enough to go home and I will take credit for her having gained some weight eating my good country cookin’!

      You have bee missed, welcome back!

  14. So glad you were able to come home early and have a good visit with your mom! We are happy to hear she is recovering nicely– quite a scare for all of you, I’m sure. Maybe we’ll touch base the next time you are home–take care!

    • Thank you, Pat. I was glad to have been able to come earlier and stay longer, too … she’s on the mend and, God willing, will stay that way. Bests to you and yours, MJ

  15. What a beautiful service you gave. I know it was from a heart full of love, and I know this not only from this post, but others you’ve written about the special relationship you have with your mom. I, too, am blessed to have a special relationship with my mom, and I also understand how the roles change over time. I experienced much of what you describe when I would visit my mom and dad when my dad was battling cancer. I’ve also found ways to be useful when our granddaughter was born, and during visits since that time. You just automatically step in, help out, do whatever you can. It’s a good feeling, like no other…the combination of acting out of love, and knowing you’re lifting a burden.

    Good job! I’m so glad for you that this visit ended happily! ~ Sheila

    • Thank you, Sheila. I appreciate your understanding what it’s like to be in that situation and the significance of doing what one can to ease the burden. I feel honored to have been there and done what I could; I wish I could do more …

      And yes, happy to report she is doing quite a bit better and making progress. Onward & upward!
      Good to hear from you again 🙂 MJ

  16. Great picture of the two of you. So glad she was able to return home. What a blessing she has someone nearby to help care for her. I’m sure it gives you a bit of peace to know that.

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  20. Thank you for this beautiful post! I would like to post an excerpt and link (per your copyright instructions) in my blog: healinghamlet(dot)com which focuses on healing and the arts (visual, music and writing). Please let me know if you have any concerns.

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