At nearly five decades of life, I took time to ponder this comment today. This is what we are taught, in spirit, to do, but it seems to me that society has it all backwards. Society spends most of our formative years teaching us to “detach” from parental ties and influence, to find our own way into life’s adventures and venues without them – to move apart from them emotionally, and later, move away physically, in order to establish our own “autonomy”. No one tells you that, somewhere around two decades later, you will no longer need these lessons, since either one or both of your parents will not even be dwelling upon the earth at all!! You will no longer need to hide from them, detach, separate, or anything else – It will all be done for you!! Death does that to families!!
If I could but put a “pause” button on my own life, I would have it stop during my second decade of life. This is the time I most remember as chasing my own dreams, pursuing my rainbows, preparing for my future. My parents had done all they could do in raising me to be a decent, caring person – as well as my husband’s parents doing the same for him.. However, while we spent all of our time being TOGETHER, our parents were living out their days, safe in the knowledge that they had raised us up to be independent, successful over-achievers!! Nowhere in our structured formulaic teachings for life were we taught that we should take every day as a gift to us; that we should take the time to get to know our parents as people, not merely as our nurturers and providers..How I wish I had taken the time to just spend time in the presence of my parents, learning of their interests and backgrounds, sharing laughter and gaining wisdom from their years of experiences.
For some of us, it is our undertaking in life when our parents become in need of our “parental” care, to do so in our own homes – to do it so well and for so long until we no longer have lives of our own. This I do not think would be considered “honoring” our parents. To me, honoring them means that I respect them, I look to them for support and advice, I do not bring dishonor upon them, I treat them with the full knowledge that I am in the presence of those who will not always be with me in physical form – Learn all I can while I can, that would be my motto.. Then there are others of us, who through exhaustive efforts, have made the decisions to find “parental” care in a more structured setting. This may be due to many diversified scenarios, but never do I condemn anyone (nor should the person who makes this decision), as we all do as best we can, with whatever we are given. When the load grows too heavy, usually there is a way to lighten it – and caregivers, with the best of intentions, often wear out and yield to the professionals in those final days. Some times this too turns out to be a blessing, as those close to me can testify – Beauty can be found in the midst of things thought unseemly to us, and true lessons of the heart can come out of horrific trial and misfortune.
Suffice it to say, I look back now at the millions of opportunities that I missed having with my own mother, because I followed what society says was the “norm”, rather than following my own heart. I lost a lot of years. In fact, decades, because I sought to “go with the flow”. How grateful I am today, that although decades were lost between my mother and I, due to my ignorance – We became the best of friends in those last years remaining to her. She passed away peacefully and totally at peace, with God, with herself, with those around her, and most of all, with ME: her willful, oft times spiteful, headstrong, pushy, driven, stubborn, grieving, profoundly affected daughter.
©2000 Dorothy Womack