Last weekend, as my neighbors braved sub-zero temperatures
and shoveled out from Northern Virginia's latest snow storm,
my husband and I flew to Florida. For the first time in
nearly 30 years of marriage, we were without children -
unencumbered by car seats, multiple suitcases or the need for
a constant source of amusement and/or snacks. But our
destination wasn't Disney World or sunny beaches; we were
going to visit my 80-something mother.
I had all sorts of planned activities for us: shopping,
lunching, going through old photos. I had decided that this
would be a great opportunity for me to "give back" to her by
taking her out.
Nothing of what I had planned happened.
Although she moves around her house quite well with her
walker, her favorite activity is sitting in a big blue chair
in the kitchen while watching television. I discovered that
she can do this for hours on end.
She loved having me sit with her and talk, TV blaring in the
background. We covered quite a bit of ground, discussing
everything from family matters to the latest presidential
debates. As my husband worked around her house, repairing all
sorts of things that had broken and were forgotten, she and I
passed the hours. I rediscovered what a fascinating,
intelligent woman she was - and still is.
Meals were the highlight of our trip, and the anticipation of
the next meal was almost more exciting than the one currently
being shared. As a special gift for Valentine's Day, my
husband woke early and made her home fries and a four-egg
omelette for breakfast, setting the table with beautiful
place settings and a dozen red roses. I'll never forget the
look on her face when she saw it.
So, that wonderful man did it again the following morning. By
her smile, you would have thought we'd taken her to dine at
There were times when she and I sat together in silence, just
looking out at her dock over the Indian River. I thought
about how my children virtually grew up on that dock during
every vacation, fishing from morning until evening and
searching for manatees and dolphins. Now, they are grown up,
and the noise of children squealing and splashing has been
replaced by the silent lapping of the river on the dock
"It's so peaceful," my mom said. "I don't ever want to leave
I can't blame her. Despite everything I had planned to do,
wanted to do, thought should be done during our visit, just
sitting and listening to the quiet was exactly what she
wanted to do - and what I needed, too.
I went there on a mission to "take care" of my mom for a few
days. But, it turns out, she took care of me by slowing me
down and letting me simply be with her.
Witko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.