When you’re 500 miles away, sometimes people forget to tell you things. Even though you’ve asked to be included on all the Evites and Facebook Events and email invites — primarily because you’re deeply rooted in FOMO — occasionally, there’s a pool party back at home that you’re not invited to, a baby shower list you’re not privy to, a birthday gathering that happens without your knowledge, bottles of red consumed without your assistance, movies watched without your hand in the popcorn box. You’re 500 miles away, after all. What’s the likelihood you’ll be able to attend, to contribute?
And sometimes, you miss out on bigger events.
Like your Mom’s scheduled heart catheterization.
These are things I don’t necessarily want to learn about on Facebook. It’s not my sweet sister’s fault — she assumed I knew. Most logical and rational people would assume the same.
But Mom “didn’t want to worry me.”
“Honey, I didn’t want to tell you anything until I had some answers. Why worry you when you’re all the way in Mississippi?”
Here’s the thing. I worry about my Mom every day no matter where I am. She smokes like a chimney, she eats and drinks with reckless abandon (sounds familiar, I know), and she’s not getting any younger. She has MS, diabetes, heart disease… and she’s my one and only mother. I worry about her, think about her every day, multiple times a day.
“There’s nothing you can do,” she argued over the phone. “There was no need to alarm you.”
“Well, here’s what I could do,” I argued back. “I could get in the car and be there in ten hours. BUT I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT.”
We’ve had this argument before. When Sam was a toddler and Mom was his babysitter, he fell and split his head open at her house. She took him to Uncle Jimmy’s office, had him stitched up, and I was none the wiser until I came home from work to pick him up. Let’s all remember, too, that I was a C.R.A.Z.Y. first time mother. Certifiable. And we’d already had some mother/grandmother/caregiver boundary issues. Not the least of which involved Diet Coke in an Avent bottle.
“Why didn’t you call me??” I demanded when I saw my handsome baby’s face in all its black-threaded, puffy glory.
“I didn’t want to bother you at work,” she said nonchalantly.
And my head nearly exploded.
But she really didn’t want to bother me. In her mind, she was doing me a favor. Just like this time. And many others. Some of her more famous semi-irrational lines include…
1. Just put me in a home when I start losing it. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.
2. No, I’m not going to live with you when I’m older. I’d rather rot in a nursing home than invade your family life like that.
3. I hope I get hit by a Mack truck instead of dying from lung cancer, or you girls will never forgive me for smoking.
4. Thank God I have Jocey, or I might have just shriveled up and died when you moved all my other babies away.
5. When I kick it, I want my tombstone to read, “I told you I was sick.”
She’s a peach, my Mom. And I love her. Adore her. Would be lost without her. Am, in fact, becoming her in many ways. (Just ask my kids.)
My Mom is an amazing woman with an indomitable spirit, a wicked sense of humor, and an all-encompassing heart. That heart of hers is big, wide, expansive… but it’s also sick. Years of hard work and cigarettes and Oreos and Keoke coffees have left it in need of some TLC.
Tomorrow, she goes to the Heart Hospital because her catheterization indicated substantial plaque in one stent and the potential need for an additional stent. We won’t know the true extent of the damage until she’s there, until the cardiologists’ cameras reveal what’s truly happening.
As I relayed the news to Jenny, she said to me, “Get outside and run. Right now. You don’t get to go to the Heart Hospital.”
And so I did. I ran. And I ran. And I ran. And yesterday, I committed to and began a 30-day Paleo diet detox. Heredity is not on my side, and only I hold the key to a long and healthy life. It’s what Carrie and I have been nagging Mom about since we acquired language — stop smoking, start exercising, stop smoking, stop smoking. We can’t make those choices for her, though, we can only make them for ourselves.
I’m a mere two days into my dietary reset, and already, I can feel my body responding. Less fatigue, more energy, increased stamina while exercising. The human body is an amazing vessel, indeed. We can abuse it and stuff it and poison it and drown it in grease and alcohol, and still it responds with immediacy when we choose to respect and honor it. I learned this during my South Beach phase. I’m learning it again now as I crawl out of my Mississippi Move Mourning. I wish my Mom would give herself the opportunity to learn it, too. I can only imagine how much better she’d feel if she gave up the cigarettes once and for all.
“I’m old,” she argues. “I enjoy them too much.”
I can’t change her mind, can’t nag her into submission. So, I’m doing what I can do. I’m making better choices for myself, for my family, for my kids, for my own life. Leading by example, perhaps.
Honoring my beloved Mom by honoring the life she gave me.
And I’m holding her close in my thoughts and prayers, 500 miles away. I’m asking God to keep her safe while the doctors poke and prod and repair the heart that holds so many. If you want to ask the same of your God — in whatever form He manifests Himself — I’d very much appreciate it.
And I’ve got the Tahoe filled with gas if I need to make a ten-hour, cross-state journey. She’s my Mom. I’d walk barefoot across hot coals to get to her if necessary. For ten hours, for twenty. For whatever it takes.
Love you, my beautiful, sassy, still-smoking Mom. Be strong, be well. We all need that heart of yours around for many, many more years.
Now I’m heading our for a quick 3-miler. This one’s for you, Mama. XO