Becoming a parent at my age isn't something I would have put on a top 10 "Things I Hope To Achieve" list. Becoming a parent to my own parent, however, has forced the issue and I am skeptical as to how it will play out against the panoply of previous successes.
Perhaps a wee bit of background would be in order. December 23, 2008: my 90 year-old mother stumbles over her considerable pile of knitting projects. Hits her head against a venerable piece of furniture on the way down to the floor. Result: fractured skull and hip. Surgery to insert 'pin' into hip. In the course of dealing with skull fracture it is discovered that she is completely blind in one eye and macular degeneration is claiming the other. Her son, living in Texas (and his brother living in Illinois), are not informed of the event until weeks later--at her command.
Easter 2009: Mom, now 91, elects to have her right knee replaced to counteract painful arthritis. Son living in Texas decides to return to hearth and home in the land of his birth. Liquidates thriving antiques business and prepares to say goodbye to 26 years of life well lived in the Lone Star State.
May 2009: Son returns to the still-frozen North with an extended truckload of treasures from around the world and the unable-to-part-with merchandise from his antiques shop. Thus begins the legendary meeting between the immovable object and the irresistible force.
To say that my mother is a force of nature to be reckoned with would be a gross understatement. Every drop of her Austrian blood is called into play whatever the occasion. This is a woman who endured the Nazi occupation of Paris so my 'coming home to put things in order' objective was a minor blip on her radar. I will willingly and proudly admit that she and I are cut from the same cloth. A blend of burlap and silk. The weft: independent, headstrong, determined, and stubborn. The warp: sentimental, compassionate, empathetic, and generous of spirit. In my experience, two people who are so completely alike will either really like one another or really dislike one another. My mother and I are navigating the choppy waters between those two shores. Love is our lighthouse beacon and we rely on it to guide us.
I should say at this juncture that there is positively nothing amiss with her cognitive powers or her ability to communicate. Her mind and her tongue are as sharp as ever. Our difficulty stems mostly from her inability to recognize me as a fully functioning and capable middle-aged man. In her mind I am still 12 years old. She has a prodigious talent for telling me what, when, where, and how to do anything and everything as though I just fell off the turnip truck.
The past seven months have been a mixed bag to say the least. I am truly glad to be back in Maine. It is an amazingly beautiful place no matter what the season. I am awed by the house I grew up in now replete with my bric-a-brac and furnishings. My mother and I have dynamics to work through. She is finding it hard to accept that her body isn't living up to the demands of her willpower. I am having trouble grasping the concept that she has been my age but I have never been hers. Several times a day I repeat to myself the line from 'Desiderata': "Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth." In a home where two industrial-grade individualists live under the same roof, it can only be considered 'graceful' if you believe alligator wrestling to be a form of ballet.
This Christmas finds my mother in the hospital yet again. Two weeks ago she was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent surgery the day before yesterday to remove the greater part of that organ. It has been a sobering experience for both of us and has played a major role in reorganizing our priorities. When she is able to return home there's going to be a significant realignment of our daily routines. We both know it and yet are exceedingly grateful that her surgery did not result in a colostomy. Hers is a positive prognosis and her recovery will be slow and steady moving forward.
I believe that between an immovable object and an irresistible force there is adequate room for immeasurable admiration, and boundless love.
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