As my parents are fading into the twilight of the end of their lives, one of the most difficult things for me to reconcile has been my inability to share with them my feelings on the things they did for me when I was a kid and to tell them how I see the value in those things now that I'm a mother. I also am sad that I don't get to hear from them how they feel about how my life has turned out, that they don't get to understand and know their grandchildren. They are fortunate to still be alive at 82 and 83, yet the past 15 years for my Mom has been wasted and my Dad is starting to leave us mentally more and more often.
I think about what I wish I could have heard from my folks and I am determined to give that to my kids. Since they will never be 'without it', maybe it won't be so special to them. I have two cards that I treasure. One is from my Mom. When I got on a plane to fly to Texas on Christmas Day, 1991 it was tucked inside my bag that I was carrying on the plane. Mom and Dad put me on a plane in South Bend, IN to start my new life in Texas with Floyd that day and gave me a hug and that was it. A few hours later I was eating at the IHOP in West Fort Worth with the love of my life, not even missing my folks.
I think about it now and wonder why, and I realize that Floyd was my future, I was 22 years old and in love, he'd been away from me for months and now we could be together again. I never had any idea that the parting of their youngest child might have been very difficult for them because they never allowed themselves to show it. I have to believe that it must have been hard to let go of their baby and send her thousands of miles away to a new life. I can't imagine a parent hard hearted enough to not find that difficult or at least a little sad. Remember, I was the baby by 15 years, they had been actively parenting children from 1952 until almost 1992. FORTY years of parenting and now they were on their own. Wow. On Christmas Day! I still wonder why I had to fly that day, why not the next day? The company was paying, so it wasn't a money thing. I'll never know how that made them feel, and maybe that's a good thing. I hope that I can remember this when my kids leave me behind for a new loved one. Or maybe? Maybe I'll be able to tell them how much they mean to me and they'll recognize what I wasn't able to see. Probably not.
Anyway, the card. I got on the plane and looked out the window. I saw my Mom standing in the little window of the airport (small one, I was on a puddle jumper to Chicago) looking up at me. I waved at her and she waved and smiled back at me. I still remember what she was wearing. As the plane started to taxi away I saw a card in my bag. I opened it up and it was from my Mom. The front has an empty chair on it. Inside it said ... no matter how far away you are, I'll always be here for you ... she signed it simply, Love "Mom". She always put quotes around Mom, I'm not sure why.
I still have that card.
The second card is a Thank you card from my Dad. I just got it a year ago from him. When he had his second knee surgery he sounded really sad, so I made a trip up there to visit him at the rehab hospital, bring him home and help Mike out with things. When I got to the hospital to visit him, the reaction was typical Dad. Nothing big, no surprise, just a 'what are you doing here?'. The staff was very upset with him, after all I had travelled from Texas to see him and left my 4 kids and husband behind just to see my Dad and THAT was all he gave me? However, I wasn't upset. Years of schooling myself to expect nothing had left me prepared. I was making this visit because I wanted to see my Dad and it was the right thing to do. Whether he expressed that outwardly or not, I was content to be there. My husband taught me that lessons. You don't do things for others' responses but sometimes, it's just the right thing to do, so you do it.
I spent that visit doing really exciting things ... cleaning the ceiling fans with my brother, cleaning the fridge, dusting the entire bedroom and hanging up get well signs from the grandkids. I baked cookies for him on his return and I went looking for him when he walked off (after knee surgery) to go down the block to a friends' house. I brought him back in the truck, he was happy to see me then :)
So, the visit goes by and it's time for me to leave. He tells me thanks for coming, gives me a hug and I return to my life. I never expect anything to be said after that, because Dad isn't a phone caller or a letter writer and I don't think I've ever gotten a postmarked item from him in my life. Mom or Mike send the cards and letters.
A little while later a card in this really scratchy handwriting arrives at my house. I don't recognize the writing, but the post mark is South Bend. I'm mystified. I open it and there's a thank you card. It's nothing extra ordinary, just a nice sized generic thank you card, then I opened it. All the official card said ws "your thoughtfulness is truly appreciated.' Then there is the signature ...
Printed is LOVE YOUR DAD, then it's signed Michael in cursive and in little print after that he writes DAD. But wait, that would have knocked me over ... on the other side of the card is written in that same block, all caps writing that I had never seen before the following:
I'm glad you came to visit. It was good to visit. It was good to have you here. Thanks for cleaning stuff. the cookies were good. I hope you had a good time also. You should come more often. Love Dad.
That took up 5 lines on the side of the card and I cried like a baby when I read it. To have something in his own writing after all these years. I don't know if you can understand how special that is. Then I talked to my brother, who buys all the stuff for Dad and thanked him for getting the card for him to write on and for telling him he should do it. Sometimes my brother prompts my folks to do stuff ... I never dreamed what I heard next. Mike said he had nothing to do with it. So as far as I can tell my Dad thought about it, went to the store, picked out the card, wrote what he did, addressed it, stamped it and mailed it. It's definitely a first. All of a sudden, it meant even more to me because it was Dad's own initiative. Sometimes I wonder if Mike is fibbing to me because he knows what it would mean for Dad to have done it on his own, but I don't care, I'm going to believe what I want to believe, it makes me feel good.
I have those two cards in my filing cabinet next to me. I look at them often. Maybe they mean so much to me because I didn't get that kind of stuff that often, but I'm not going to withhold from my kids just so I can send them one special thing. I'm going to tell them all the time, so they'll know what they mean to me. I hope sometime I can get my husband to do the same, because having something from your Dad is really special, I know that personally.