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Monday, May 10, 2010

My Mother

I spoke to my mother via Skype on Mother's Day. Isn't Skype wonderful? Who could have imagined the ease with which we can now communicate electronically? When I first came to Europe in 1972, the only means of communication was via letters sent to American Express offices. The first order of business upon arriving in each new city would be to head straight to the American Express office, hoping to find a letter waiting. The anticipation while standing in line was agonizing. Would there be a letter for me?

Now I don't have to wait for letters from my mother, she has a new computer and has figured out how to use Skype. My mom wasn't online on Sunday, so I used Skype to dial her phone number. She answered on the second ring. She doesn't get out much these days; she's tied to my dad's bedside, providing around the clock care with just a few hours of occasional respite. I used to offer a few hours of respite for her before I left, going over on Sundays, watering plants, and giving her a few hours of time off. Sometimes she would just sleep, the endless routine of caring for my father taking everything out of her. Other times she would go and visit her sister, a task almost as demanding as caring for my father. Sometimes she would just go to the grocery store, waiting for someone to come over and stay in the house so that she could go out for even the smallest of errands. My father doesn't like to be left alone in the house - not even for a minute. "What if the house catches on fire and I can't get out?" he pleads.

My mother has put others' needs before her own ever since she was married at 17. I was born when she was 18 and by the time she was 23, she had four children and a husband who never changed a diaper. I can't imagine how she did it; her own young adulthood evaporated amidst the wailing demands of 4 small children. But the women in our family are strong, we can take it, we don't complain. This notion of stoicism runs deep in my veins. And so I remained in a "marriage" that wasn't good for me for far too many years; refusing to leave even though nothing was holding me back - just my own belief that I was strong, that I could take it, that I wouldn't complain. But I wasn't telling the truth about what I was feeling - not even to myself.

Now I have left. I am free. And even though I am not in Denver to help my mother, she is surprisingly supportive of my freedom. She is one of my biggest fans, reading my blog, wishing me well, and letting me go.

Thank you Mom. I love you.


  1. That IS lovely Elaine. Isn't always true how we soak up so much from our Mom's? And then try and NOT do some of the things we picked up unconsciously? It totally freaks me out as a Mom, I don't want to pass on my undesirable traits to my daughter! Ah me:)

  2. I can identify with what you say, Elaine, as I did the same for many years. I called it "addicted to hope". Strength - yes, yet hope that things might change or be what I wished them to be.

    Now I am on a new journey....and am coming to Paris. I sure hope to see you while I'm there. I'm traveling with a man I've been with since January. We'll travel to Canada (his home country), then to Paris, arriving on May 25! He will be there on business and I will have days to explore, although it will truly be a wilderness adventure for me as I don't speak French!

    Until we meet.....Teri

  3. Teri,
    How exciting for you! I'll be delighted to see you in Paris!

  4. Likely the most powerful piece you've written yet. I am enjoying the insights and the writing freedom you are beginning to explore.