The last few years my mom who lives in South Dakota has travelled to visit and stay with us in Washington during the summer. My mother is 82 and has never had a driver’s license but has always had a car (up until just a few years ago). In years past family would drive her to me and I would take her home or vice versa. This year, I wanted her to hold off on her trip. I suppose because of COVID but in hindsight it likely had more to do with something else. Something I can’t quite put my finger on, or put words to but overwhelmed would be a good start.
I’m so glad she came. She lives by herself and with social distancing and business closures she would have been a little more isolated than would have felt decent. We had a good time; I think my favorite visit yet. She seemed healthier than ever and even looked a little younger than she has in years past, maybe it’s the 3 year old in our house. He has a youth serum that is invigorating and exhausting all at the same time. She did my dishes and I let her. I say, “let” because I would normally jump up and tell her to sit down or I would have done them myself but this time I just really didn’t care. I didn’t care if the dishes got done and it didn’t bother me that my mother was doing them for me. I needed her here more than I realized, certainly more than I told her. We had an interesting yet uneventful trip back to her home, South Dakota. We took the long way and made stops none of us had been to. For Cass this was easy, he has never been much further than an hour away from the farm and by the return trip can mark off 11 states.
During her visit we talked about her first real job as an adult, she lived in Maywood, a suburb of Chicago and worked at a Kool Aid factory that sent cases of Kool Aid to our troops in Vietnam and earned wages of $1.69 an hour. She liked it because she had 11 kids at home and her boss let her take home the defective packets, ones that didn’t seal or had some kind of error that prevented them in stores. Six of those kids are my older siblings and the remaining five were her younger siblings who lived with her and her first husband after my grandmother passed away.
We talked about her growing up with chickens and cattle because back then nearly everyone had a farm. She told me how my Grandpa a Yankton Sioux (Ihanktowan) joked that he married my Grandmother (a Rosebud Sioux) because she was fair skinned and looked like a white women; she could buy him beer. Even though my Grandpa served our country in WWII he wasn’t allowed to buy alcohol because he was an Indian. We talked about how sometimes we both have private conversations with our dads who have passed on years ago, we were both daddy’s girls and I don’t think I made that connection until I listened to her talk about my grandpa this trip.
She told me how one time she was watching this movie on her computer, she was really into it just staring at that screen until she noticed she was looking at her mother staring back, right there on her computer. It gave me chills as she shared this, I couldn’t tell if it was something spiritual or if my mom was starting to lose it. She said she could hardly believe how clear the image of her mother’s face was until she spoke, “Mom?” and realized the movie was over and it was her own reflection looking back at her. 🤣 Still laughing at that one! My mom wasn’t losing it or having a spirit moment but she is funny and tells a good story.
There is something uplifting about spending time with our elders. This year feels difficult to navigate, but after random conversations about life with my mother it feels a little less stressful or at least subtly points me to the notion that life just IS hard sometimes and it has been for generations before us too. Looking forward to the next road trip!
Glad to hear Marlene is doing well. Wish I could have seen her for a visit, maybe next year!