Note: Since I’m not getting any younger either, there is a chance that there may be some detours and short, short stories buried within this short story. As I work through this idea of putting up more personal observations on SVU, I will need to learn to make them up in bite-size portions. Please forgive me if I fall short in my first attempt.
There is always something surreal about going “home” to visit with my parents.
First, the house they have lived in for approximately twenty years never was my home…I just visit there. There are no memories or secrets hidden there for me. There are no stories to tell about events that took place there or people who came to visit. It just happens to be where my parents now live.
I am so fortunate that both of my parents are alive at this point in my life. I recall a little over ten years ago, when my mother in law died a year or so after her husband, one of the first things my wife said to me was that she was now an orphan …41 years old, but an orphan. I remember her saying that like I remember where I was when President Kennedy was killed. (maybe a theme for another story since we are coming up on the 50th anniversary?).
So, as I set this story up, I need to make a confession or two.
Before confessions, I know that my parents are going to read this, so I need to go to agonizing ends to pick just the correct words. My idea about writing this is not to pick on them , (or me) but to share a small part of the experience. As you read this mom, picture me smiling and using that dry sense of humor you always tell me I have. As long as you do that, we will both be OK….OK?
The first confession is that I have the tendency to be opinionated, hard-headed, confident in my abilities and usually like things done my way.
Simple enough. If you can deal with that, we can be friends.
I get those traits, in part, from my parents. Like most relationships, we do not always agree (go back and read the previous paragraph). Although I did not appreciate it as a young man, I have become fond of the saying, “If two people always agree, one of them is not necessary”
I deeply care about the man and woman who raised me. It pains me more than I care to admit that I only get to see them three, maybe four times a year and even though I talk to them several times a week, it is not the same. Before I forget, for those of you who may have missed the explanation, here is the story about how my parents came to have me….We Chose You.
I have heard it often stated that as parents age, they become the oldest children of their children. I also know this to be true. Not in a sarcastic, condescending way, but because the equation has often tilted from being a caregiver/nurturer to being one in need of care and assistance. People change.
I have to stop myself from wanting to lecture them on what I think they should be doing. I want to point out to them that they are not doing some things they “trained” me always to do….I notice things like that…..contradictions. Some are more important than others, but none are life threatening, at least yet. In the long run, it just doesn’t matter and the sun still rose in the East this morning, albeit an hour earlier or later…who knows and why do we still do that anyway?
Some of the nuances are cute and in reality, have a utilitarian use. On the evening I arrived, after driving eleven hours from South Carolina to New Jersey, my mom had a feast waiting for me. Enough food, that if I had picked up the Brady Bunch, hitch-hiking on the interstate and brought them with me, there still would be leftovers. When I could not consume the amount of food she thought was appropriate, Mom asked if maybe I didn’t like what she prepared….not a chance it was one of my favorite meals growing up, but when I was growing up and had a high metabolism. I could get way with eating two or three portions and still have a 34” waist. These days?, well fuggetaboutit.
But being frugal, we ate the leftovers for dinner on Sunday and they were just as good the second time.
I will note that I am starting to see similar interactions with my daughters, reminding me that I may not be as young as I think I am. One example is that I was texting with Jelly, (Elissa’s nickname) who is 23, about some of the new songs I was having to learn for the band and that I hadn’t heard of some of the bands, never mind the songs…to each of those, she replied, “Love that old song, I have had it on my iPod for years””…old?…years?, where have I been, listening to Lawrence Welk?
Second confession: There has never been a time that we were closer than we are today. Each, ongoing day is a true gift from God. I know they appreciate my spending time there, helping with some Fall chores around the yard and house. We had some great discussions and it is always emotional when I leave as I wonder if this was the last visit the three of us would have together, ….hey, eventually, it will be and there is always the chance that I could be the one that bows out first, we never know, do we? I guess that’s the undertaker in me.
Back to the trip….
Over the years, I had a routine. On the first day, I would leave SC and drive to Mt. St. Mary’s, spend the night there and then drive the remaining three hours to NJ the following day. When my visit was over, I would drive non-stop back home and Mom would always make me a box full of sandwiches (Salami and Ham on rye with enough Polish pickles to start a road side stand) so I didn’t have to stop and eat fast food. Who am I to turn down more free food?
This year, because of scheduling, I drove non-stop to get there and then, on the way home, drove to The Mount, met a seminarian friend for dinner and then drove the remaining distance the following day. She made the sandwiches, we packed them in a cooler with ice and although they were not quite as fresh as normal, I ate them all five through the last leg of the trip home.
Hopefully, they are going to be able to make the trip here for Jelly’s graduation from USC, (Go Cocks!) in December…six weeks away. Before that, my wife and daughters will be converging on New Jersey for Thanksgiving week and I know that all involved are looking forward to seeing each other….as they should.
That is what families do.