It is commanded: Honor thy father and thy mother.
Who attempts to deny or separate themselves from a mother or a father would be denying the reality of themselves and who they are.
We are not born out of thin air, and mist at the touch of a magic wand. We are born out of a miracle of creation, the mating of a man and a woman, a father and mother.
In all of time, and space, no other pairing except this mother and father could have created the unique being that we each are. Nor brought us out of the void of nothingness into a life and its living.
We are made of what they are: virtues and flaws. If we resent the flaws in them, stress the virtues in ourselves.
For the miracle of our birth we must pay heed to the dictum, honor thy father and mother, lest in cutting our self away from the source of our being, we become spiritual orphans.
This invocation is particularly germane with my having to place my mother in an assisted living center in early June, due to her progressive lack of mobility, and tendency to fall while getting out of bed. My decision was overdue, but wanting to avoid her wrath, Rich and I kept procrastinating until her caretakers (Visiting Angels) resolutely recommended we move her into a facility, which could offer 24-hour care.
Previously, she lived in our house in Mount Vernon, with twice-daily visits by Visiting Angels, who helped with dressing, cooking, laundry, cleaning, and chores, like feeding the cat, bringing in the newspaper, and changing the linens. On weekends, Rich and I took over, giving the Visiting Angels a break.
We’ve been deeply involved in my mother’s care for the past two years from setting up and overseeing care when she lived in Oregon to moving her to Washington, refurbishing her Oregon house, managing all aspect of her life (i.e. setting up services, paying bills, purchasing groceries, etc.), and most recently, moving her into a care center.
My brother, meanwhile, who lives in Oregon (and at one point, worked a few miles from his mother’s house), has done little more than visit her a few times in the past two years. While he’s offered lots of advice over the years, he’s done little to remediate issues.
When my mother lived in a two-story house, and kept falling, and complaining about the stairs, it was Rich and I who drove to Oregon to move her bedroom furniture, clothing, and personal items downstairs. My brother managed to show up for less than two hours to help, while Rich and I were there for days cleaning, doing home repairs, and purchasing items she needed.
My brother’s participation in moving my mother was to spend less than two hours helping load her furniture into a U-Haul. Rich and I spent the subsequent four months, driving to Oregon (over 3 hours each way), every other weekend (and sometimes every weekend) refurbishing her house so it could be leased.
A year earlier, I’d asked my brother to coordinate services with Visiting Angels. He did nothing. Finally, I made arrangements for an initial visit, which needed to be done during the workweek. My brother agreed to be there, but at the last moment, backed out. In the end, a woman who cleaned my mother’s house – and proved to be a great friend – worked with Visiting Angels.
Returning to my grandmother’s invocation, she wrote, “We are made of what they are: virtues and flaws. If we resent the flaws in them, stress the virtues in ourselves.” My mother has many flaws, the most pronounced is her narcissism. She’s always placed her needs and feelings above others. When my brother and I got sick, we’d be scolded for getting sick, and promptly sent to school to minimize the possibility of my mother also catching our illness.
Even though my mother stopped working when she was 28, and was widowed when 40, she felt housework, cooking, and gardening was my responsibility. She resented that I had homework, and saw nothing wrong with forbidding me from going out and being with friends. She argued my chores were more important, and since my projected future was to marry, have kids, and build a mother-in-law apartment, there wasn’t a need for me to do well in school.
Fearing my brother would turn into a “mama’s boy,” my mother sketched a different plan for him, ensuring he had time to be with friends, participate in Boy Scouts, and attend school events. His room was relocated to the far end of the house so he had his own bathroom, and privacy. While I was cooking, cleaning, and sewing or doing needlework at night (my mother felt these skills were more important than school work), my brother was in his room with the door closed, doing as he pleased. Ditto for the weekends. When he was done with his chores, his time was his own.
My time was rarely my own.
When my mother’s parents grew older, my mother would visit once a year, and then spend the next three months complaining how stressful it was to visit them. Towards the end of her parents’ lives, my mother refused to fly from Portland, Oregon to Burbank, California to see them. She didn’t go to their funerals or participate in helping close up their estate. Instead, she complained it was taking too long to get her inheritance.
Now that my mother’s life is drawing to a close, it’s easy to see why my brother’s participate has dwindled. He has the same flaws as his mother.
While I’m equally flawed, I’m proud to have the character and virtue to do what’s right, even though it’s been burdensome. I don’t honor my mother. I simply do what’s necessary and expected.