June 5, 2012 § 2 Comments
Last year, my stepfather retired from a long career as a rehabilitation physician. I can tell it’s been a difficult transition for him, trying to find ways to pass the time, ways to enjoy the life he’s got — as it changes, as it hastens, as it swerves away from his control.
As time goes on, my parents keep getting older. Usually, I am so consumed with my own life’s petty dramas that, when I finally get a moment to stop and look around, I realize that my parents’ lives are changing too. My stepfather’s hair is whiter than ever. My mother has new laugh lines and deepened crow’s feet, nesting at the corners of her almond-shaped eyes. Indeed, their bodies grow weaker, their lives shift, and there are illnesses that they can’t avoid. And I can’t help but wonder if I’m wasting the precious time I have left to get to know my parents better.
After college, when I was working at the Foundation, I was living at home for a year or so, trying to save rent money by commuting. When I wasn’t sleeping over at Takafumi’s place on work nights, I remember how I would get home from my long commute, eat dinner, and rush to my room. Like an angsty teenager, I’d spend most of my nights tied to my computer, chatting with my boyfriend and recharging for the next day of work. I was so blinded.
So many years ago, I remember feeling like I’d wasted that precious time with my father when he passed away, and I told myself then that I wouldn’t do that with mom. I would tell her how much I loved her every day. I do tell her that I love her, and I do often. However, I don’t know if I’ve done enough, and often enough, to make her truly feel the deep love and respect I have for her—and for her husband, my stepfather. I don’t know if I’ve done enough to cherish her life and her experiences, by asking her questions and finding a deeper understanding of who she is and who she continues to become.
Older, wiser now, I realize where time has placed us, and yet here I am again— forgetting to call more often, staring at my cell phone when I’m with them, still ignoring the inevitable, because, in a way, children always pretend that their parents are the constants of their lives.
But, truly, they are a gift, a transient gift.
Thankfully, this summer has offered me some time to think about this. To stop and discover those new laugh lines. To spend a day away from my own dramas, leaning on my mother’s shoulder, watching her fulfill new roles. Last week, I saw her holding her month-old step-grandson, placing a bottle in his mouth and rocking him gently in her arms. My stepfather, the new Grandpa, was looking over them, lovingly. Even now, they find newness in things.
And I get to experience that should I choose to open my eyes.
I won’t have these opportunities with my parents forever. I don’t know if someday my mother will get to hold my own children the way she held that little boy, but I can imagine the kind of love she’d give. I get to take these memories with me. I get to take the memory of a warm Wednesday in June and the love of two new grandparents, a love that was so palpable and so beautiful. I get to take that along with me, long past the days when my parents are no more.
Should I choose to see, I can keep them with me. So, I choose to see.