Once A Mother, NOT Always A Mother

I love my adult son. At almost 30 years old, he’s a great guy that I’d be friends with “in real life” if he weren’t my son. But I’m done being a mother. He’s known it for quite a few years. And it’s not only “Okay” – it’s healthy.

Women love their “roles”. Lover. Wife. Mother. I think many people identify more with their roles than their actual “selves”. I am not one of these, and I don’t think that makes me a bad mother.

In all of nature, as far as I could tell from “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”, a mother’s job is to teach her young to fend for themselves and then to, well, LET THEM. That’s what my son is doing.

From his childhood he understood what “first and last month’s rent” was, and that he’d need to have it some day. He moved out just after his twentieth birthday and has finished college while working and supporting himself since. He works. He cooks. He does his own laundry and never brings it home to me. No, he’s not gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I don’t remind him to do his income tax, turn his clocks back, or call anyone on their birthday (Father’s Day, etc.) because I am done being a mother.

I will always be his family. I will always love him. If there is anything I can do for him that will make his life better I will, after consulting with him, happily do it (rather than assuming I know what he needs and wants). But that’s it. That’s all folks. He’s an adult and I’m done mothering.

I built a nest, and taught him to build his own nest. I fed him and taught him to feed himself. I flew and taught him to fly. He’s flown away, built his own nest, and feeds himself.

I don’t worry about him. I can’t honestly say that he enters my mind every day of the week. Nor do I expect that I enter his. We are just plain old human beings who, by coincidence, have a unique relationship because he came out of me. I don’t own him. We don’t have any claim on one another. We are two random people trying to find our way through the world. That’s it.

I don’t feel like a bad mother because I’ve equipped my kid to be a fella who can and does function without me. Nor do I feel like a bad mother because I can function without him. In fact, if you can’t function without a relationship with your offspring, then doesn’t that make you, as the parent, the burden? I don’t want to burden my young.

Perhaps as a result, we have a wonderful friendship. I see my adult son more than most of my peers. We actually LIKE each other. We don’t owe one another anything simply because we are mother and son. Imagine a relationship with family that is chosen, rather than expected – one that is a privilege, rather than a right.

I am not saying I’ve got it all figured out. But this “parenting” thing has worked out rather well for both me and my progeny, despite being different from the media propagated “Once a mother, always a mother.” Not for me. I was a mother for 20 years. Now I’m just a friend and it’s a real joy to be friends with this young guy.



What is a Loser?
What is he not?
He is the sucker,
Lady Luck forgot.

No difference ‘tween us,
But a change in the breeze,
That put me on my feet,
And put him on his knees.

Good sense and good fortune,
Yoked as a team,
Fulfill on many a,
Lesser man’s dream.

But we call him a Loser.
It’s more fear, than it’s hate.
He works harder than most,
But is trapped by his fate.

Ol’ Loser, leave town.
Take your sad sack and flee,
‘Cause whatever’s got you,
Don’t you git it on me.


Walking Each Other Home


My sister has been inserting this quotation in her email signature lately.  Since our brother died at 40 years old.

As I feed my couple of old folks their breakfast on Wednesdays and Fridays, I feel as though we are, in fact, walking each other to the end of life.  They’re closer than I am, but we’re there for each other.

Ted is confined to a wheelchair.  One of those high backed ones with the head rest, that makes it impossible for him to tilt his head back to drink his juice all the way to the last drop.  He’s hard of hearing and has lost his sight.  He forgets things in an instant.

“Where am I?”

“A nursing home??”

“How do I get out of here?”

“I can’t see.”

At first these questions and comments from him made me uncomfortable.  When he said he couldn’t see I’d joke, “You’re not missing much.”  Now I say, “I know.  You haven’t been able to see for a while.  It must be very difficult.”

This week he floored me.

“When will I be back to normal?”

I paused.

“This is normal Ted.  You’re a very old man now.”

“Oh no.”  Wow.  The despair and, I think, shock in his voice.

Roslin is as sharp as a tack.  She can see.  She can hear.  She laughs at my witty banter.  But she can’t move her body or her limbs, and she can’t speak.

As I make conversation with Ted while her cream of wheat grows cold (I nuke it later), she chuckles at what we say to one another.  When it’s her turn for my attention, her brow and her clucking sounds in response to my kidding around tell me there is a woman inside who is 100% “With It”.  When I finish feeding her toast and jam, in 1/2″ pieces, by hand, and help her wash down her coffee through a straw, she cries that it’s time for me to leave.  I tell her, “I know.  It’s my favourite time of day too.”

I wish I could know that they know how much our time together means to me.  But we can’t know some things, can we?

Ted and Roslin and I – we’re all walking home together.

“Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver


You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Packing to Move to the Unknown

I am packing to move in six months – or more.  I’m crazy.  I know.

I don’t even know where we’re going.  I mean, I know which city.  We plan to open our own business in a city closer to his young boys, from his previous marriage.  But I don’t know what our address will be.

But I still can’t bear it.  There is logic in packing now.

  1. At my current job, I can get many, many, excellent packing boxes for free.
  2. For the next six months, my husband will be picking me up after work every day, so I have a way to get these boxes home without annoying all the other commuters on a bus.  After six months, my husband will be moving away to start a business in another city, where he will live with is parents temporarily.  I may go with him immediately but, more likely, I will follow him in the subsequent months.  That means that, if I wait to pack, I’ll be bringing those bloody boxes home on the bus.
  3. My husband goes out to that future city every second week, to bring his boys for their weekend visit.  This is a 5 hour round-trip, meaning my husband drives 20-30 hours each month, barring summer holiday traffic, which adds an extra hour each way in the summer.  (We’re definitely moving.)  His parents live in the same city so he can start ferrying out our packed boxes to that new city over the next six months.  I don’t need all my tchotchkes, extra linens, or to even put up a Christmas tree this year.  Let’s move it on out.

But, logic aside, I am not invested in this beautiful little heavenly flat anymore.  I am still so thankful for it, but I know a journey awaits and I want to embark.  I stare at the end of the living room with it’s mound of packed throw cushions and sheet music and books and I say to my husband, “It’s like Christmas!!”

Feeding Ted

I have a new way to be useful in life.

I feed Ted.

Ted is a man in his nineties.  He still wears his glasses, even though he “Can’t see a damned thing” and I have to holler in his ear every time the spoon heads towards his mouth.  “Open!”

He lives in a neighbourhood nursing home and they struggle to have enough volunteers to get the residents fed in decent time.  (Cold porridge is the worst – yuck!)  It’s especially tricky to get people who are able and willing to come in for breakfast time on a weekday.

I have the good fortune to be available and in the neighbourhood and, unlike so many of my peers who find it “gross”, I’m not uncomfortable feeding adults.

It’s intimate.  It’s forced intimacy between two strangers.  Ted is in a position of vulnerability and, honestly, so am I.  On the first day I wondered how I’d get so much soft and liquefied food to his mouth without making a mess all over his face (I worried less about the giant bib).  Today I joked with him that I’ve worked my way down to half a napkin instead of the four, sodden serviettes I went through on that first day.

But, as the days pass, I learn how to raise my voice in a still “conversational” tone.  I’ve learned what music Ted likes and we talk about the weather.  He can still feel the heat wave even though he hasn’t set foot outside in, possibly, years.  But he often asks me where he is.  He’s asked me where his teeth have gone.  When he’s left alone, before finally dozing off in his wheelchair, he may cry out, “Hello?  Help!  Where am I?  How do I get out of here?  Help me!”  Before lamenting, “Nobody cares.  Nobody cares.”

I love Ted.  He is a fellow human being with whom I have a unique connection.  We tread the same, dusty, well worn path from the cradle to the grave, Ted and I.  At half his age and having grown up in a different part of the city, the likelihood of my ever having met Ted is pretty slim.  The odds of my sharing such intimacies with him are even less likely.

I know people don’t fully understand that I am getting more out of this than he is – or at least, I think so.  It is such an honour, I feel, to be able to serve another human being, in their frailty, in such a practical way.

I am so grateful for this beautiful opportunity.




is more beautiful than “Trying”?

I mean really trying.

Not just saying, “I’ll try.”

I mean, seeing someone “Succeed” is beautiful, yes.

But it’s beautiful because of the effort.

Because of the journey.  The story.

Because of the trying.

And what of the countless multitude

Trying and trying and trying

Day in and day out

For nothing?

Well – not “Nothing”.

For the right to have Hope.

Isn’t that something?

Isn’t that the most beautiful and terrible thing?

That’s the kind of “Trying” that I am learning to revere.


They took out my womb on Tuesday.

Sounds like the beginning of a terrible, ol’ style country and western song.

I got to keep my ovaries.  So I’ll still have great hair and be a horndog for awhile longer.  Glad about that.

Now I get another 7 weeks and 1 day off.  I’m interested in how that will be.

Tonight I wouldn’t say I feel the pain more acutely, but I am more aware of the wound than ever.  I feel as though I can feel how deep the wound is, which I’ve never been able to say before.  The whole area has just been a tender bruise.  But, tonight, I feel specifics.  I fear possibly feeling individual stitches.  Yick.  Anyhow, just very present to the incision.  Interesting.

Looking Up

I was actually kind of glad to be back to work today.  I haven’t quite gotten comfortable in this job yet, having only been here since November 28th and finding it SOOOOO different from what I’m used to in the industry.  Nevertheless, my cold has been mostly in check, without the need for doping up on over the counter meds, and it’s been a pretty good day.

Here are some things that made me happy today…

  1. Having my 23-year-old colleague tell me that any time I mention my husband, I seem like I am a young girl rather than a 45-year-old woman.
  2. Getting a seat on the subway on the way home from work.
  3. Seeing the smile on a client’s face when they got their hearing aids today.  He’s a homeless fellow and we had to get welfare coverage for his hearing aids but we did it!  I think he’s as happy that anybody gives a darn about him as he is about hearing well again.
  4. Earning some respect in my workplace.  It feels good.  Usually I go for wanting to be liked but, for some reason, my spidey senses are telling me to play it differently this time.  Respect will be key to my success in this new role.
  5. My hubby is giddy and playful today.  He’s in a good place.  I am so attracted to him when he’s happy.

Looking Up

It’s a New Year.  A clean slate.  As every day is, really.  But there is something profound about both this day and, for me, my own birthday.  They are both “New Years” and both feel full of promise for the future and mercy for the past – even the past as close as the night before.  All is forgiven and I can begin again.

I am thankful for that.  And what else?

  1. I am thankful that, as I lie here in my second-hand flanel sheets (bought from a thrift shop – I love flanel), coughing and sputtering all over myself until my head aches, that I have clean, cool running water a mere few steps away.  What a soothing balm over the last few days as I’ve succumbed to a dreadful cold.
  2. I am thankful that I am back in touch with my family.  I haven’t been able to say that for a few years.  I am thankful that my brother’s death, like his life, was not for nothing.  My step father always said that my brother was “the glue” or “The Godfather” than held our family together.  The tragic loss of him has certainly proved that statement true.  Out of respect for him, we’ve laid down our swords and are doing our best to simply love one another.
  3. I am thankful that I have a husband that is really second to none.  Our love transforms the others weaknesses into strengths.  Through my husbands eyes, I see all my previously perceived flaws and foibles as blessings and powers.  Through my eyes, my husbands suspicions that he is unique, special, and meant for something wonderful are all affirmed.  What more could one ask for?  (I just phoned him at his mom’s to read this to him  and he said, “That’s beautiful, baby.”  😀 )
  4. I am so, ridiculously thankful for books!  Books, books, books!  Biographies and fiction and self-help and spiritual books.  All of them.  I love, love, love to read books.  I have had a great year of books.  I wonder what I’ll read this year.
  5. I am thankful for my creativity, which I have pressed into more in my forties than I ever did before.  Probably for a couple of reasons.  First, I am less of a perfectionist than I was in my youth.  I don’t need to be the best painter, writer, drawer, sculptor, decorator, etc.  I just want to have some fun.  Second, I have had four years of stability, which is a record for me.  When you are with the same mate, living in the same place for awhile, you can afford to start accumulating brushes and paints and beads and papers and things and you can set them out for awhile while you work over days or weeks and it’s no big deal, because you’re not going to have any major relationship upheaval that means packing and purging things that are not necessitities and junking half formed projects and moving on to who knows where.