I write a lot about my own mother, because our lives are so enmeshed. I may or my not have mentioned that my husband also has a mom, and we all love her just as much. We don’t see her often, because she lives a few hundred miles away.
It can seem overwhelming sometimes being the close child, the one who is involved every day, the one who has to track every detail, take every phone call, drop everything and run to assist when your parent needs help. But now we’re experiencing the challenges of being the far-away kids.
My mother-in-law was in a car accident recently. Someone crossed the center line and hit her head-on. She spent a few days in ICU, but is home now, recovering from her injuries. She has two kids nearby, but one travels a lot for work and the second one has other issues occupying him. They’re doing what they can. My husband and I are also doing what we can. The hard part is wishing we could do more. The hard part is we can’t drop by to check on her and see for ourselves how she’s doing. The challenge lies in finding ways to help without being there.
Phone calls, emails and care packages are what we’ve come up with, and even the phone calls are tricky due to fear of disturbing her rest. We can’t go cook her a meal, but we can send her boxes of healthy foods that don’t require a lot of work. Dried dates, organic soup cups requiring only hot water, fancy crackers, echinacea tea to boost her immune system and help with healing – all of those went in.
The bigger challenge is admitting that my mother-in-law is a mere mortal. She’s always been competent, accomplished and forward-thinking. Even though she’s past the typical retirement age, she still works full-time, running a bowling alley she owns with her husband. She’s made it easy to engage in magical thinking, believing she’ll always be the one up and going and taking care of business, always be present. But then something happens out of the blue to remind us she’s not invincible.
It’s been too easy not to make time to contact her or drive down for a visit while my own mom has needed so much. Too easy to assume she’d we could always go see her later. Well, no more.
We’re going down for Thanksgiving (and no, not expecting her to cook.) I’ll try to make sure someone else from the family comes to see my mom for the holiday. We’re going to stay in touch with our other mom more regularly. No more waiting for a time that might turn out to be too late. No more taking her for granted.