Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sometimes you just need your mom

I went to visit my mother last weekend. She lives in a nursing home in Georgia, about three hours from here. Just about the time I drove in to town, the nursing home began a quarantined lock down of the facility. Some kind of bacterial infection was spreading and as a result, no visitors. I spent two nights there, visiting with my sisters waiting for the quarantine to lift. I finally had to head back home. I never got to see my mother.

Mom never knew the difference. The reality is, she probably still wouldn’t have known I was there, even if I had been able to hold her hand and kiss her cheek. Her memory began slipping slowly at first, but not long before my father died in 2011, the descent became significantly steeper and darker. I don’t think she remembers the day he died. It’s hard for my sisters and me, but Mom’s not remembering that he is gone is a blessing. She doesn’t feel the pain of living without him.

Really, the trip to visit my mom was mostly for me, not her. Sometimes you just need to see your mom. You need a reminder that someone really has loved you all your life, even when you’ve not been your best self. You need to look into another face that you see glimpses of when you look in the mirror. It reminds you that you are not the only one. You need to remember because she can’t. You also need to forget some things too.

I have a special memory of my mother that always seems to surface around Mother’s Day. I was a preschooler riding in the front seat on the passenger side of a sedan that my Aunt Alma was driving. This was before car seats and seat belt laws. I was barely tall enough to see out of the window, but I had my head turned towards it as I peered out.

A drunk driver coming from the opposite direction swerved over into our lane and crashed into us head on. I remember the loud noise and how my head bounced back and forth off the window several times. There was a full service gas station nearby that not only pumped gas for you, they also worked on engines and such. As people rushed to help, somebody from that station handed me a greasy red rag filled with ice and told me to hold it on my right eye and not let go. The gasoline smell of that rag almost took my breath away.

I don’t remember how I got to the hospital. I do remember that I didn’t see anyone there that I recognized. The nurses made me lie down on a cold, metal table and they put my head in a green foam form to immobilize it for the x-rays and scans. Once they determined that my greatest injury was just a black eye, they sat me up on a high counter near the reception area. My four-year-old legs dangled over the edge while I sat there alone, just waiting.

From there I could see the ER doors that opened automatically when someone approached. The sun outside was very bright and the light inside was dim, so I couldn’t really see any faces or details of the people coming through those doors. I only saw dark silhouettes. I watched figure after figure pass by. Then, finally, I didn’t have to see her face to know it was her. I recognized my mother as she came through those doors simply by the shadowy outline of her permed hair and the curved shape of her hips. She ran in, put her arms around me and scooped me off that counter. I know I must have ended up with one heck of a headache that day, but I have no recollection of pain. The only physical feeling I remember is finally having my mother’s arms around me.

You forget the pain when you remember the blessing. My mother knew that. Jesus taught us both that.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” (John 16:20-22)

This article originally posted May 10, 2015 on The Press and Standard website.