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?