This is a weird Mother’s Day for me. I’m getting ready to fly out to California to help my mom make funeral arrangements other end of life decisions and nursing home/ insurance company billing issues for my dad. Dad is probably in his last couple of months of life. His doctor is amazed that he has lived as long as he has. However, dad was always a scrappy fighter and remains so despite his end stage Alzheimer’s disease and probable cancer.
Mom has had a tough go of it. Dealing with my dad’s deteriorating condition the past five years and not having retired life turn out the way that they planned has worn her down. She is not doing well neither physically or emotionally. Sometimes her emotional state leads to difficult situations for my brother and me. As with most independent minded older children my relationship with her has been at times mercurial. Mom wanted me to remain in our home town and be a teacher. That didn’t happen. As readers of this blog know, I am that Navy Brat who never grew up and lives for the adventure of life and discovery. When my dad retired from the Navy in 1974 I thought life was over. The adventure of seeing new places and discovery seemed to stop. When I finished my first two years of college I moved away, only to return for visits as I have ambled about the world. I know that she has had a hard time with this but some things can’t be helped. It is interesting because she and dad did the same thing. They joined the Navy and never went back to their hometown except to visit.
Mom has always been a bit special. When my dad was in the Navy she was a rock. Once a neighbor threatened me and mom went down and blasted him. It was kind of cool to see my barely 5 foot tall mom take on a man who was 6 foot 6. She would have had no hesitation to clobber him had the man laid a finger on me. She endured a lot in life. Her dad was abusive and controlling. She endured frequent separations from my dad when he was in the Navy. She worked hard in the house and outside of it. We didn’t lack for anything. She experienced the loss of many friends when the aircraft carrying the Marshall University football team crashed in 1970.
At the same time she is her father’s daughter. She has always known how to get my dad, my brother and me into rages. She knows our buttons and can push them at will. Thankfully my brother and I have become much more adept in recognizing what is going on and only occasionally have flare ups, a credit to our self discipline as well as a touch of help from the Deity herself. Our family in better times was much like the Costanza’s in Seinfeld.My brother and I understand George completely. At times we resemble Ray Romano’s family in Everybody Loves Raymond. Back in 1998 when I was the installation chaplain at Fort Indiantown Gap Pennsylvania Judy and I were watching Seinfeld. George’s parents were screaming and Judy looked at me with wides eyes and a shudder ran through my body. She said “My God that’s your parents.” I responded “I know but we can never tell them.” The next night we got a phone call from mom. She asked me: “Did you hear what Jeff told us last night?” I said “no.” She then said “Jeff said that we were just like Frank and Estelle Costanza on Seinfeld.” I was stunned and started laughing out loud. I then said “Mom, we were watching Seinfeld last night and thought the same thing. But we weren’t going to say anything….but since Jeff has brought it up, you are just like them.” She cried “Nooo!” We later have had a lot of laughs over this but sometimes I think that Jeff and I each in our own way are George Costanza or Ray Romano and our wives like Raymond’s wife played by Patricia Heaton.
My brother and I were born almost six years apart. As such for most of our younger lives really didn’t think that we had that much in common. Over the course of the past 10-15 years we have found that we are much more alike than not. Our views on politics, religion, how we react to different stressors, how we do life are surprisingly similar. He works hard as a school principal and is very involved in his family’s life. His oldest son evidently has at least some of my personality traits and at times I am reminded by Jeff that he never thought that he would be “raising his brother.”
Anyway the relationship that we have with mom is interesting, especially now. She’s not doing well and I wish that we could get her back to where she was five to ten years ago. However, that won’t happen. Certain medical and physical conditions never get better. Mom is grieving dad, the man that she spent 50 years with is gone, even though his body is still alive.
I am going to surprise her tomorrow. My Mother’s Day Card is intentionally late. I have it to take with me. Instead of the usual flowers sent through an online service, I will pick them up on the way to the house. I’m telling her that I expect the man bringing her gift and card to get to the house about 12:30 or 1:00 her time. However that man will be me.
I do appreciate your prayers this week. I imagine it will be difficult. Pray for my mom and dad.
Peace and blessings, Steve+