“When he came in the door, she tried to sing the song… But she couldn’t finish because she was too old and sick. The son went to his mother. He picked her up and rocked her back and forth… and he sang this song: 'I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my Mommy you’ll be.’”
—I’ll Love You Forever, a children’s book by Robert Munsch
Mom, I’m not ready!!! This is what my heart screams whenever I admit that I’m scared. I am forty years old and my mother is seventy, but I feel like I just barely started growing up.
For months, my mom and I talked about how wonderful it would be when they finally moved down here to Pittsburgh. But when it happened, I felt like we were trying to recreate the past. I haven’t visited nearly as much as I meant to. COVID happened. But also, whenever I did visit, tears would well up and a sob would catch in my throat, until I wanted to run away.
I knew it was fear. I now live a life very different from the way I was raised. Our religious beliefs and lifestyles are very different. When I visit my parents, I don’t know what to talk about. For most of my life, I never felt more at home than with my parents. Now, I find that panic and grief overwhelm me when I visit.
One day, I’ll have to care for my mother as she once cared for me. I’m not ready to handle the truth that our relationship must change. Even now when I try to help, I feel far short of the selfless example she set for me. I am terrified she might need me when I'm not done needing her!
So I told her.
We were sitting at the table and the tears were welling up, because we had run out of things to say. I told her that I didn’t know how to be an adult daughter with her. I let the tears flow. She listened and took my hand in hers. Her hand said, “It’s okay.”
She pointed out that it was okay for our relationship to change, and we had more in common than I realized. I don’t know how that can be, but no matter who I am, my mom isn’t scared of me.
I begin to believe her. I’m still scared. I’m still not sure I’m ready to be a grown up with my Mommy. But maybe she’s right, and I don’t have to. Maybe now that the air is cleared of the past between us, there’s room for something new.
Ancestors, help me to grow in my understanding of family. Help me not to miss the opportunity to love and be loved. Thank you for being with me in my fear, and reminding me that I’m not alone because you have gone through this before me, and are still here.