My mom moved in with us 11 days ago after dad passed away. My parents immigrated from Korea in the 60s. You can take mom out of Korea, but you can’t take Korea out of mom. She has no filter and even though she always has the best intentions and is the most loving person you could ever meet, her comments can sound strange, random and even hurtful. But she’s just doing her, you know?
This morning, I was driving her to church when she shared this gem:
“You know, when I look at my children, I realize I am very old. Because they look so old.”
This prompt brought me to the source of our strongest emotions of late: grieving. My father was diagnosed with lung cancer on April 1st and passed away on July 11th. In that short span of time, I stayed with my parents a lot in Georgia, away from my desert home in Arizona. The colors of the lush foliage surrounded me as I took walks as breaks from caregiving. Friendly neighbors smiled and waved and I felt welcome and an unexpected sense of peace.
A young woman got married at the age of eighteen (like her mother had and her grandmother and all the other women in her family before her). She had five kids in quick succession. “And when the oldest child was ten, and the youngest was three months old, this woman’s husband left her.” (E. Gilbert)
To make a long story short, her heart was broken and she cried in despair. But then – that very day that she realized her husband was not coming back – she decided that the vision of her being poor and pathetic for the rest of her life was not to be. She was going to see the world someday.
The woman decided to save $1 every single day. It was not to be touched under any circumstances. This was her promise to herself. It was not emergency money.
She saved $1 every day for twenty years, filling many coffee cans.
And when the last child left the house, she went on a cargo ship (it was the least expensive way to cruise around the world). It stopped every few days and she’d disembark and see a new country.
I’ve mentioned a tense relationship between my daughter and me on this blog. It has gotten pretty distressing at times and when I decided to push my ego aside, I realized I had to surrender. Pestering was not working. I had reflected on my intention. Was my primary motive to help her be “successful” in life? Was hounding her to do homework and practice her violin most important? No. But that was what I was practicing.
I set my priorities clearly. First of all, she must know I love her unconditionally. Secondly, this is her life. I trust her with it. She knows what to do and if she doesn’t do it, she will have to face the consequences. That’s how she will grow. Throughout it all, I will love her, absolutely.
What I DO owe her is a happy mother. Every time I start to resort to my habit of nagging, I redirect my energies to what I want to do: plant lantana in the backyard (even in 100 degree heat), exercise, write, cook and so on.
Since I’ve put this practice in place, a magnificent event has occurred. We’ve become closer than ever. She wanted to get into shape. I took her to a fitness club. We signed her up for a four week membership (realizing there will be NO time for the gym once school starts). The club gave me a 2 week free pass. Organically…naturally…completely unplanned…I’ve become her trainer. We work out together and laugh and (sometimes) partake in junk food afterwards. There is ease and love where angst and friction once were. And if I ask her to do something, she does it. Most of the time. And that’s OK.
The intention came first. Space (a lot of it) came next. And then complete awareness and unconditional love. I’d say this works for all relationships.