Before we moved to NY to be near my elderly parents and ailing father, the only time I spent with my family was too-brief visits that invariably involved a lot of stress, fighting, and then retreating back to Massachusetts. Moving to NY to be closer to my parents and to be a resource for them improved my feelings towards them because I got to see my mom and dad under rather ordinary, non-holiday circumstances on a regular basis.
Since my dad died in December and my sister A returned home to Tennessee, I have made the effort to spend some time with my mother every day. This is easier for me than it sounds because I live in the apartment upstairs with my husband and three cats. We have our own space with its own entrance, shared foyer, a privacy door to our apartment, and we pay rent. Since I am working from home, I have the latitude to visit my mother several times a day and/or spend awhile with her.
The best thing about this arrangement is that I am laughing a lot more because my mom is a very funny lady. When I used to come home for visits, I might be around during a time when she was complaining a lot. I would find it hard to want to spend time with her because I might be staying with them in a nearby room. Now, because I spend a lot of time with her, the percent of time I spend with her where she is in complaining mode is less than it used to be.
My mother is a good storyteller. She will share with me memories of my father, growing up in dire poverty in Italy, or good times with friends she had. Her high-pitched, rapid-giggling style of laughing is enough to get you laughing so hard that you have tears streaming down your face without even having a reason to laugh.
I get to pop on downstairs and give her a hug. I get to offer to get things for her when I am out running errands on my own. In return, she feeds me. Oh, does she feed me! Even though my Italian-born excellent cook mother does not cook as much, she often shares what she cooks with me, or she will buy food and give us half. I fill her car with gas when it needs it. I call her doctor’s office or Medicare or Social Security or her various insurance and pension companies so she does not have to deal with talking over the phone with a thick accent and her hearing aid removed.
Just tonight, I came away with the some fresh baked coffee cake with drizzled icing and walnut bits. If a better relationship with my mother who makes me laugh isn’t the icing on the coffee cafe, then I don’t know what is.