“Mommy, can you sew a button on my P.E. uniform?” “Ma, I sat on my homework and it’s wrinkled, can you iron it?” “Mom, I signed you up to bring cookies on Thursday, OK?” These are the sounds that filled my home for over twenty years. So many things to do while going in so many different directions. They were frantic days, but they were filled with love and a sense of purpose. I miss those years.
My home is quiet now. My husband died more than two years ago and my children are out on their own. So I hold on tight to the memories as I try to find a new purpose.
My son was an active child, always testing the limits. He crashed toy trucks into walls, colored outside the lines and was “all boy.” Sometimes, when my 8 month old puppy starts running around in circles, I call him by my son’s name by mistake. He reminds me of that playful boy who was full of the dickens. Without thinking, I repeat the phrase I used too often with my son: “What is your problem?!!” but to no avail.
My boy had a deep, sensitive side as well. I sang to him at night and read Dr. Seuss until I knew those books by heart. When he couldn’t sleep and wanted to be near me, he’d sneak into my room and crawl under the bed. Dr. Spock had told us that co-sleeping was bad, and my son knew he’d be sent back to his room if he was caught. I wish I had followed my instincts and let him curl up in my arms and stay there all night.
My daughter’s self confidence always amazed me. Although she got glasses at 15 months old and had bushy, Jewish hair, she thought she was the cutest thing in town. I watched her on the playground with a trail of blonde haired, blue eyed girls following her every move.
When she decided to run for 6th grade president, we practiced her speech night after night. She walked confidently onto the stage, looking like a 10 year old Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I mouthed every word with her as she gave her speech, and when she won I said, “Today 6th grade, tomorrow the world!” We laughed for days over that line.
When she was in 7th grade we moved to Palos Verdes, and she was teased for the first time in her life. Some girls made fun of her glasses and she came home that day in tears. I immediately made an appointment for her to get contact lenses. I urged her to leave the “mean girls” and find a nicer group of kids. She was smart enough to find her way through a difficult transition.
How I loved being at the center of my children’s lives, being the one they came to for comfort and approval. I remember watching my son play little league and praying for a “ball” so he’d at least get on base. And what fun we had with my daughter’s costume fittings for ballet recitals, and bringing roses backstage. What joy I felt watching my children’s faces light up when I came home early from work. I was loved, I was needed, I was their mommy.
My son is 40 now and my daughter is 38. They have successful careers and children of their own. They have spouses who come first, as well they should. I know they love me, but the dynamics have changed. Instead of playing a leading role, I am now one of the supporting players.
I’ve retired from my career as a college professor and age is catching up with me. There were many days when the loneliness overwhelmed me. I was up at 6am and sat on the couch until 10, waiting for a reason to get dressed and get out. There was nobody there to ask how I slept, or keep me company while I make coffee and watched the news. Day after day the monotony continued, as I search for a new direction.
Today I try to be grateful for all the good in my life, and it actually makes me feel better. There are so many ways to reach out to others in similar situations. I am discovering a new freedom and enjoy getting involved in more social activities. Writing is a new form of creative expression for me, and it’s helping me find a new purpose.
Yes, I miss those years, but how fortunate I am to have had them. How fortunate to see my children thrive as adults and to know that I had a big part in it. The future is not just theirs, it can be mine too if I just reach out and grab it.
It’s time to move forward…past time. I’m a little scared, but I’m also excited. I will welcome the next chapter in my life with the courage and hope. Watch out, I’m back in the world of the living!