When I was eighteen years old, I graduated from a small high school in Kansas and headed off to college in Iowa, and at the same time, my parents moved to a new home in Illinois. I never moved back in with them, and for the next forty years, my parents and I lived in different states, usually several hours away from each other. But when my father passed away nine years ago, we all agreed that it would be best for my mother to move to St. Louis to be nearer to two of her daughters, and seven years ago, she moved to a house that is about a fifteen minute drive from me.
It seemed so different to suddenly have my mom close by again. The first few weeks after her move, I was at her house almost every day, helping her unpack and settle into her new home, and helping her find all the necessary connections (a new doctor, the closest grocery store, a new bank, etc.) that moving to a new state entails. These days, I’m not at her house as often, but we talk several times a week on the phone, eat dinner together often, and I drop by her house regularly to see if she needs anything or just to visit. We both like to watch HGTV and sometimes I help her with a jigsaw puzzle, but other times we just sit and talk.
The mother-daughter relationship is always a complicated one, and I suspect that each mother-daughter relationship is also unique. When I was very young, our household was busy and my mother had her hands full with raising her own three kids, plus a niece and a nephew. Later, she added to her work load by going back to school to get her masters degree in Education so she could support my father when he quit his job to go to Seminary. My mother was there when I needed her, but we didn’t spend a lot of time together, and we weren’t especially close. And of course, once I became a teenager, I was far too cool to listen to anything my mother had to say anyway.
So now it seems that in many ways, I have been given a wonderful gift of being able to spend time with her, as two adults, and get to know her more as an individual, rather than simply as my mother. She tells me stories of her family and her early life (sometimes the same story several times, but repeating stories is a privilege of the aged). I always knew my mother was a hard worker, but I am still in awe of how active she is in her church, and how willing she is to take on new responsibilities. I see how much time she makes for the friends in her life, always reaching out to them when she knows they are dealing with something hard.
My mother will be turning eighty-six this summer, so I know that our time together is not unlimited. I know that she will become more dependent on my help as she ages, and that is nothing more than the natural order of life. But whatever the future brings, what I know most of all is that I am so very grateful that I have her close by now, and that I will always have the memories of these past few years together.