As the plane leveled out, I allowed my mind to wander back through time. After all, the trip would take the better part of the day — I could spend the hours meandering through memories.
My first concrete thoughts of childhood begin sometime around the age of two or three. I can see her as clearly as if it was yesterday, her beautiful red hair cascading down her back. And her eyes – they were so green; and when she was happy, they sparkled like jewels. I could remember her lying across the bed with her hair hanging down and her eyes laughing as I brushed the red waves and curls. What a favorite memory this was! It was a time when we were the best of friends. A happy daughter, a happy mother. My world was filled with bliss! But only occasionally.
Other memories were buried in a blanket of pain. Those were the days when those same green eyes pierced my soul – filled with fire and anger. Then, I felt her anguish, frustration, and bitterness. But at such a young age, I didn’t understand those emotions and thought they were somehow directed at me, perhaps my fault. I believed that every action or word she flew in my direction related to my failure to please her. And beginning then, the words and actions became a mushrooming cloud that haunted me to this very day.
How I still longed for something different – something that gave me what I wanted from her. I wanted soft hands, loving words, sounds of affirmation, storybooks at bedtime, barefoot romps through fields of wildflowers. What I didn’t know was that she believed she gave me all those things and more. She never realized what her words and actions translated into in my mind and heart.
As the plane moved me closer to home, I reflected on the times when I overheard words flung at my father. Later I would see the hurt in his eyes and his actions, his withdrawal from all of us. There were nights when her anger sent her flying out the door, dragging my younger brother and me behind her, driving feverishly through the city as if she were looking for something or someone. But it was never clear to me just what she went racing through the streets to find. Those nights came back with the same haunting fear they left me with in childhood – what or who were her ghosts?
A panorama sped through my mind of those times when daddy was so sick that we thought he’d die, and I watched as she nursed him with such gentle, loving care. The same was true when one of her children fell ill. Then she became what I wanted every other day of the year. Her hands caressed a feverish head and wiped away fretful tears, and she promised she would make it better. And she did. But then tomorrow always came, and every tomorrow was unpredictable.
As I retreated from the past and back to the present, I realized that decisions of the last few days had selected my traveling companion for me. I was beginning a journey with someone I’d known all my life. We’d traveled down many roads in our 50 plus years together. Some paths remembered held delights; and others held emotions filled with pain, and some too painful to recall. But recall them I must. Some inner voice urged me to look deeper, to listen with a fine tuned ear, to walk closer for once.
My companion on this trip was my then 88‑year old mother. In a period of less than a week, I had made the decision to move her across the country and in spite of the memories etched into my mind and soul which told me not to, the decision had somehow been so easy. Our history contradicted the sensibility of my decision. How could I please her now? I’d never pleased her before. How could I possibly think that I could make the right decisions for her, for me, for us? After all, I’d lived a lifetime with criticism and harsh judgments.
There it was again. That inner voice that kept telling me this was right. I heard it whisper, “You have no other choice.” In spite of attempts to read or nap during my flight, that voice kept etching away at all my arguments against this decision. And now, I need to share that voice and its meaning for me so that hopefully I can show you where it led me. This last journey with my mother has become one of my greatest treasures.
[Copyright 2011 by Sherrey Meyer. All rights reserved.]