Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Purfict Dotter

Many of you have been offered up great words of encouragement regarding my mom's move to assisted living.  It's comforting to know that I share a common bond with other people who are now in charge of an elderly parent.  I have to confess that comments that extol my perceived purfict dotter virtues make me tug at my collar and gulp feeling like an imposter.  I can't even say the words p-e-r-f-e-c-t d-a-u-g-h-t-e-r out loud.  I have been a mediocre daughter for years.  Years.

My sister, Kathy, lived and breathed Perfect Daughterhood. While I was out navigating the world of motherhood, Vacation Bible School, Junior League, and PTA, it was Kathy who was always there for Mom.  She was the one who would mow Mom's gargantuan yard and trim miles of hedges during a weekend visit.  I got huffy if Mom asked me to take out the trash.  In my defense, I desperately wanted to come home to a "soft place to fall" with my three rambunctious boys.  A place where meals appeared on a table set with pretty plates and cloth napkins.  A place where chocolate pies and homemade bread greeted us at the front door.  Kathy, didn't have a child until 2 years before she went to heaven.  Her relationship with Mom was more of a friendship.  She took time to listen and mow and rake leaves.

When I moved Mom to Lubbock, I found treasures of Kathy's humor tucked here and there in boxes of keepsakes.  She once wrote an official looking letter from The Society to Prevent Cruelty to Roaches informing Mom that it had not gone without notice that she had a particularly vindictive attitude towards their kinsmen.  I still have the little rubber roach that Kathy moved from place to place in Mom's house just to hear her scream.  

I leaned heavily on Kathy's grace towards our mother.  She had all the bases covered.  I had my hands full and couldn't be bothered.  "Kathy's coming this weekend to help me plant my panzies!"  There would be cringing and gritting of teeth on my end of the phone line. I would have rather had a pap smear during a root canal while "public speaking" at a funeral than help Mom in her beloved garden.  

During my Me-Me-Me years, Mom would drop everything if I needed her.  She stayed with me for 2 weeks after the arrival of each of my sons.  Once when I was pregnant with my second born, my 15-month-old had a horrible diarrhea diaper that oozed all over his high chair seat and down to the floor.  {sorry, but I wanted to make sure that you fully understand the direness of the situation}  All I could do was gulp in a cheekfuls of air, hold my nose, run with my breath held to grab him out of the high chair and plunge him into a warm bath gagging all the while.  Mom quickly packed a bag and hopped in the car to drive from Waco to Dallas.  Within about 2 1/2 hours, she rang my doorbell and swooped in like Mary Poppins to clean up the mess that was festering in my kitchen while I lay swooning on my bed.

I could tell you story after story of all that my mother has done for me over my lifetime.  It would be a long tale of sacrifice, love and grace.  I could also tell you stories of all the times my mother drove me ab-so-loot-ly-cuh-ray-zee.  I'll spare us all from those useless details.  Suffice it to say that as I look back over my life, it's Mom.  She has always been my touchstone and soft place.  Kathy and I used to tease each other about using Mom up.  "Quit having babies!  You're using her up!" Kathy would say.  When Kathy's daughter was born, I accused her of the same.  "You had to go and have a little girl so that you could use Mom up!"  During Kathy's battle with cancer, she once apologized to me for using Mom up.  I assured her that our resilient mother could NEVER be used up.

When Mom surrendered her total independence by moving to Raider Ranch in Lubbock, our roles quickly changed.  I became the mother.  For a while, she was like a fretful child.  "Did you sell my car?"  "Yes, Mom."  "But, I might need it!!"  "Mom, you're legally blind soooo..."  "Yes.  But I like having a car just in case."  As her mind has become less focused, she has become my sweet, loving child.  And, I treat her as such.  I just want to sit and cuddle with her.  I want to know about her day.  "What did you have for a snack this afternoon?"  "They gave us apple slices and cubes of cheese."  "Ohh!  That sounds yummy!"  "It was!"

I feel so blessed to have her with me.  My nest is empty.  For such a time as this, God has left her here on earth with me.  After all those times when I couldn't be bothered, I now just love basking in her presence.  AND, there's absolutely no grass to mow or hedges to trim.  Lucky me.

I went by to see Mom today.  She always lights up when she sees me and tells me that she's surprised to see me.  I hope that she's referring to the fact that I often show up unexpectedly and not to the fact that she can't believe that I would take time out of my busy day.  A bit later she said that I was her favorite child.  Before I could even revel in that limelight, she added "because you're my only living child."  We both chuckled.  Strangely, I don't want to be the favorite child.  Deep down I know that if Kathy was still alive, Mom would be with her.  Because that's who Kathy was - compassionate, loyal and protective.  

Thank you, Lord, for giving me this second chance to be the one.  You have filled me with patience that surprises me daily.  You have given me days with open pockets of time.  I am so grateful.  Amen.