So Mom and I had her admissions interview at the facility this morning. Is this how parents feel at their children’s school assessments? It was a weird anxiety to present her well, make sure they saw how lovely she is.
Happily, Mom did great. She failed miserably to answer lots of the questions to test her cognitive skills– but her personality came through. She was pleasant, happy, connected with the admissions person and even made a joke. I sat feeling like a proud momma.
But my favorite moment was when Mom was asked who I was. What was my name, or our relationship? She struggled. She knew it was an important question. Finally, she figured out the answer: “I follow her.”
Somehow I loved that response. It was not that I am her daughter or sister or friend, all terms that she has used. Not my name though she knows it most of the time. But a real description of our relationship these days.
Once I followed Mom. Now Mom follows me.
Nights like these are not for going to sleep early. Whether it’s the rain or the fact that it was a shower and fresh clothes day, or some other inexplicable tilting of the universe, Mom and I find ourselves hanging out in the kitchen cracking jokes tonight, so very late. My plans to get some rest after a long day that began at 5am are set aside with only the mildest hesitation.
I have pulled out the ice cream, the good stuff that I keep hidden in the back corner of the freezer for just this kind of evening. Mom’s delight is worth it. Her ability to find humor in these moments amazes me. She tells me she is cold, and I ask whether she is too cold for her ice cream. The reaction is priceless. She makes faces at me between mouthfuls. She is cheerier than I have seen for weeks now.
Mom tells me my cat, also in the kitchen with us, wants dark chocolate and I pull out a bag of what is left of of the birthday chocolates Mom’s sister sent her. We do not share any of them of course with the cat.
Suddenly, we are sitting in every kitchen as mother and daughter late at night, laughing. Nothing feels that serious. There is a camaraderie in the simplest of pleasures, sitting up together too late at night with treats. This moment could be when I was a little girl eating goldfish crackers, delighted that I don’t have to go to bed yet. Or letting Mom distract me from worries over what I should do with my life over my preferred late night meal of stacked up cheese sandwiches as a hungry teenager. Or a night as an adult visiting home and spending that last night hanging out with Mom before heading back across the country to my busy life and months before I would see her again. Or now where I am the one stashing the ice cream for Mom and doing the dishes as she enjoys her treat.
It is any of these times and all of them. In the end, this is why I keep Mom at home, postponing again the inevitable. These times are where wee find family, in kitchens over food, laughter and the ordinariness of the day. Or the ordinariness of a night when we delightfully stay up too late, indulging ourselves as we can, lingering here for a little bit longer. Always, hoping for just a little bit longer– before bed, before separation, before yet another change, another goodbye.