Sunday, June 2, 2013

On walks with Mom

From my car window, I saw them walking slowly up the sidewalk, a white haired son leading his white haired mom by the hand.  And I don't know why it hit me right then, why the veil slipped down for a few moments and I stared face to face with the reality I tuck away, unconscious, nearly every single day.  

My mom won't be young forever.

I know, of course, that she adds a year to her life, the second of every September.  But it's as if her age increases independent of her body.  In my mind, she's timeless, ageless, her smooth face forever framed with short auburn curls.  I cannot envision her old.

But she speaks increasingly of pain in her body, and I try not to worry, though her pain hurts me, too, deep in my heart.  Arthritis in fingers and hips and knees, pain that burns through her all throughout the day and into the night, stealing her sleep.  And I listen with one ear and push it out the other ear, because I don't know how to hold that feeling of helplessness, that incongruity.  Her body is supposed to hold up, my heart argues against logic and nature, because she's my mom.  She's too young for this. 

Yesterday, I drove to her apartment and we walked to one of our favorite old haunts in downtown Ballard, savoring conversation nice and slow over coffee and slices of hazelnut coffee cake.  From there, we walked to the Locks and she squealed with joy over small, shiny black fish shooting in schools from the pipes and looked eagerly for our beloved heron on the shore or hidden away in concrete crevices.  And I soaked this in, all of her, thinking how I love this woman. 

We crossed the Locks to Discovery Park and hiked the three mile loop around, pausing to inhale at the beautiful sweeping views.  Along the side of the trail, she stopped to pick a buttercup and asked if I remembered, how years ago we'd hold them up beneath our chins to see if their reflection foretold a love of butter on our skin.  If I remembered the chains of daisies and buttercups we'd knit together in the grass.  And I didn't remember, any of this, but I tucked this memory away for another time. 

On our walk back home, seven miles total, we passed by a garage sale and chatted with her neighbors, and she gave her phone number to the woman, saying she'd love a walking partner in her neighborhood.  At home, we fixed heaping salads for lunch and she was so delighted I didn't need to slip away yet, and her excitement to share another meal with me, at her home, shot through my heart.  

We shopped the afternoon away in search of a dress and heels for two weddings I'm in this summer, and we found both, along with a pink and white ruffled top for her that looked just right.  And I stayed for dinner - takeout Thai from another favorite spot - and we watched Father of the Bride II for the ninety-ninth time. 

Since losing my dad nearly five years ago, I have had time to ponder the possibility of losing my mom in an instant of time, as we did him.  Even to ponder the eventuality of losing her, period.  But rarely have I thought of watching her, the one who is my closest friend, age before my eyes, until she is but a shell of herself.

She is the one person in my life I know I can call any hour of the day or night and never be a bother.  The one who will drive across town to go for a walk with me and listen to me pour out my heart when I call her in tears, lonely.  The one who listens intently, holds me with her eyes, covers me with her prayers, spills her tears with me.  The one who kept me company the first days after surgery, sitting in bed with me as I dozed in and out, helping me hop in pain to the bathroom.  The one who spent a Saturday helping me pack our apartment and scrub cupboards and bathtub and sinks and toilet.  The one, I know, who is always content just to be with me, as I am. 

One day, I may be white haired, leading her slowly along the streets on a brief walk, instead of briskly covering miles together, up and down hills.   And I will love her then, as I do now, the woman who came before me and gave me life and has walked through life with me, my closest friend.

Mom and Sis at the coast

Linking with Heather for another Tuesday of Just Write


  1. Thank you so much my precious daughter for your beautiful words which I treasure. Thank you for loving me and spending time with me.

  2. oh my gosh. this is gorgeous, amber. just gorgeous. what a gorgeous tribute to a beautiful, precious, anointed woman. and she could not love, adore, and cherish you or jennifer more.
    - lauren

  3. Simply lovely. I'm a bit teary eyed as I think of my own mother, my best friend. May you be blessed with many years with your mum!

  4. Dear Amber
    This breaks my heart for your relationship with your mother is the kind of relationship I craved to have with my mom, but never did! It used to break my heart, but I have come to realize that she cannot give me what she doesn't have. Ever since I am grateful for the love she is honestly able to give to me! I am sure you two will walk many miles together still.

  5. Hi, I am visiting your blog via Just Write. This is a lovely post and a wonderful tribute to your mother. It makes me think about my own mother, who is 76. I don't spend enough time with her. We don't live very near one another, but we occasionally visit. We do love long walks, but my stepfather can't do it, so we rarely have the opportunity. Mostly, we call to keep in touch. We must make the most of it :) I am sorry to hear you lost your father.

  6. Amber, honey. Your beautiful heart, your tenderness and honesty, your appreciation for your mama...thank you for all this. What a gift you and your mom share. I was able to spend most of the day with my precious mama yesterday, too, and I thought of these words of yours. These times of storing up, of giving thanks in the moments we are able to share, those days we are able to stay just a little bit longer and do...really, such gift, and yes, we just do not know. Bless you for helping me remember. I love you, friend.

  7. Oh, man, Amber. I just loved this piece. You handled this topic with your usual grace and finesse. So wonderful to hear that you and your mother have this kind of relationship. Inspiring. She's lucky to have you as a daughter. :)