27 April 2005

Mortal Mama

I had this idea to start a meme with the National Parks people had visited, but the list of sites was 29 pages long, so I decided just to make a record for myself. It was last week on our mini vacation that I discovered estates are also managed by the National Park Service, and therefore I'd likely visited many more sites than I'd thought I had.

Mom stopped in to say hello and was soon pointing out places I’d been dragged to as a kid. Some parks in Hawaii came up on the list. “We should’ve gone there when we lived in California,” she interjected. “All our friends went, and it wasn’t as expensive as it is now, but we didn’t have the money then.” That was during the days when my parents moved regularly for my Dad’s work, in the years before they had any children. “I always wanted to go,” she mused.

Since my Dad had recently told me he wants to go to Hawaii, I brought it up thinking they could go and have a great time.

“No, it’s too late.”

Thinking of compromise and partnership as part of marriage, I said, “That’s not very nice.”

“Tough luck.”

I laughed to keep the mood light and responded, “That’s really not nice. What do you mean ‘too late’?”

“Five years ago, he asked what I wanted to do for our 40th wedding anniversary, and I told him a year in advance, and did we go? No. Now it’s too late.”

The idea that five years could force an action or a choice beyond the realm of what’s possible made her world seem very small to me just then. If I believed that, I’d have given up long ago because there’s so much I haven't accomplished. It's never too late- isn’t that what people say?

But these past 5 years have changed my mom. She had cancer, and though she was cured of it with surgery a few years ago and has thankfully had no recurrence, the weight of mortality pervades her thoughts like a pessimistic fog. With her attitude, it is too late. It made me want to say that I’d go with my Dad because I’d love to go, but I held my tongue because I knew that if we went without her, she’d never forgive us. I can only hope she’ll change her mind.

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