My mother asked me for money the other day. She’s just had her hair cut, and had given the stylist the last of her cash. My mother lives in a retirement complex and no longer drives, so she depends on her family to provide her with the supplies she needs, including a little bit of spending money. So I call her when I’m at the grocery store to ask if she needs anything. I also make sure she has a supply of greeting cards to send out, and my husband and I usually shop for the presents she wants to give for family birthday parties.
I don’t mind doing any of it, and I know that I’m actually quite lucky that my mother, at age 91, is still independent in so many ways. But when she asked me for the cash, I couldn’t help smiling a little. I was remembering all those years when I was growing up and I was the one asking her or my father for money. For some reason, that particular phone call made me see just how clearly our roles have reversed in recent years. She used to be the one who took care of me, and now I (and my sisters) are the ones who are taking care of her.
I’m not going to lie, it felt weird when I first realized just how much my mother has come to depend on me. In some way, I suppose, we never outgrow wanting to have our mother act like a mother. We want our parents to express interest in our lives, to believe that, even after all these years, they still “have our backs.” But I learned that what often happens as our parents age is that they gradually become uable to manage their own lives, much less help with their adult sons and daughters. My mother was a talented seamstress and I always counted on her to alter my clothes, or even sew curtains for our house. But she gave up sewing a few years ago, and now I use a tailor.
My mother loves living in her retirement community, knows most of the residents and participates in the many activities there. But her interest in the world outside that community has definitely diminished. She no longer reads her mail, pays her bills, or files her important paperwork, so I do all of that for her. And I’m just fine with that.
I’ve learned, over these past few years, to stop worrying about the things she doesn’t do, and to simply be grateful for the things she still does do. She’s always had an excellent singing voice and still sings in both her church choir and her community’s glee club. She still calls me frequently, is always glad to see me when I stop by, and graciously allows me to help with her latest jig saw puzzle. And she absolutely adores her three great-grandchildren.
What I’ve finally figured out is that the mother/daughter relationship isn’t stagnant. It changes over the years, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, now I often care for the woman who once cared for me….but she’s still my mother, and I’ll do my best to treasure every minute I have left with her.