The below piece is my entry for "Sunday Scribblings." I wanted to do something about my mother while staying in todays theme of "second chances." Sadly, the story is true.
My brother and I took our parents and younger brother to the airport. I don’t remember why my sister wasn’t with us, maybe she had to work. It was a few days after Christmas 1978. The air was cold and the goodbyes were tearful. Mom kept hugging us both as we waited for their plane, the first of several that would take them half way across the world. When it was time to board, we hugged one last time and then shook our dad’s and younger brother’s hand. They walked out to the plane and we waited as the door closed and the plane took off and banked toward Atlanta.
Before the age of the internet and back when the discounted phones rates to Japan was over a dollar a minute, we’d mostly communicated by letter for the next four years. Each summer, they’d come home. All three of us older kids would take trips over there, where they’d show us around the country. My parents seemed happy and the time they spent overseas was precious, but also hard. They were away for both my brother and my college graduations and only my mother would be present for his wedding. Although this was a time in life when it’s normal for children to become independent, and I’d been living on my own for over a year, their move facilitated our freedom. By the time they moved back stateside, we’d all be involved in careers and my sister and I would be living in new cities far from home.
My mother often lamented having been gone and how she wished things was still like it was before they moved overseas. What she didn’t realize, or at least didn’t admit, is that their move had little to do with the changes that were occurring. We were in college, we were getting older, and she knew that, sometimes she couldn’t help but wonder if things would have been different if they’d stayed in the states. Perhaps she’d have a second chance to have us all at home again. She longed for the past, when we were all living under the same roof. For years, she’d try every trick possible to get us all home at the same time. This was quite a feat after my sister and I moved to different corners of the country.
Before my dad retired, my parents would take another stint overseas for a couple of years. I’d move back and forth across the country a few times. We got into a routine of talking by phone nearly every Sunday and seeing each other once a year, sometimes twice. As when they were in Japan, my mother continued to be a letter writer. At some point, she switched to email, but still wrote long flowing letters about what they and the extended family including folks I’m not ever sure I’d recognize were doing. I should have known something was up with the letters stopped and when my mother’s calls became shorter. By the time she was diagnosed, the illness had progressed further than anyone had realized. I begin to realize a little how my mother felt, wanting a second chance to have everyone back at home and knowing it was never going to happen. We’d get no second chances of having our old mom back as her memory continued to fade.
A couple weeks ago, I was talking to my dad. I could hear him choke up as he told me about how, the night before, when he was checking the doors and making sure things were locked up for the evening, mom asked if we were all in for the night. Maybe, in her scrambled mind, she’s getting a second chance. Even though I still love her dearly and will always love her, I miss my old mom.