I picked up my mother this morning to run some errands together. She was waiting for me, in the driveway because she never wants to make anyone wait. On a good day, my little Italian mom is 4 feet, 11 inches down from her ‘fighting height” of 5’2″. Getting herself into an SUV is both entertaining and somewhat concerning. Today it was a little of both.
She settled into the seat and clicked in the seat belt. I don’t think her feet can reach the floor. I closed the door and walked around to get in the driver’s side. As I looked over at her in the car, she looked so small.
“You look like Gramma Amelia sitting there,” I said. She smiled and off we went. Conversation is never hard or forced, it is just easy. My mother is a riot with the Pittsburgh Steelers and weather app on her phone. She has no Facebook, no Snapchat. She hand writes birthday cards and slips the kids money when I am not looking. She knows their favorite foods and snacks and mysteriously leaves them in my garage or back door. The photo library has every picture ever taken of the kids.
Our first stop was the bank. My mother got out of the car and as I came around to meet her she reached for my hand. I have held my mother’s hand before but this time was different. I have noticed my sister holding her hand but it still took me back a second. We locked hands as we slowly walked towards the door. Her hand was so small that it struck me. At first, I laughed because I thought of that little Italian-mother hand so deadly with a wooden spoon or the precise toss of a flying slipper aimed at three kids who were fighting over something insignificant like a cookie. But then I realized what was happening, something my sister has come to face long before me. My mother is getting old.
We finished what we needed to do in the bank and walked back to the car. Once in I asked her where else she wanted to go.
“Oh, you’re so busy, let’s go home.”
“No, let’s go!” and I asked her where else she planned to go this week and she smiled and said the Public Library.
“I need to pick up a book I reserved.”
So, the next stop was the Schenectady Public Library. She fought me for the quarter to pay for the parking meter and then hand in hand we walked into the library. She stopped short, no pun intended, in the doorway.
“Smell that? That is the smell of a book, not a Kindle. That’s why I read a book so I can smell the paper and feel the pages as I turn them.” She schooled me pretty good. She showed me where she took my kids to get books when they were small, and pointed out the empty space that was once held the card catalog.
My tiny mother handed her library card to the young girl and said, “I think you have a book for me.” They handed her the requested book and off we went. It was my turn now to hesitate in the entryway and remembered my mother dropping me off to do research for papers and looking through old microfiche reels for a story. This time, the driver was me and the hand placed in mine was a little unsteady.
We drove home laughing about the kids and how I kill every plant in my house. I walked my mother in and chatted a bit before I returned to work. I was both thankful for that time and sad knowing what will eventually come to pass.
I love my mother for who she is and the expectations she held so high for me and my children. Amelia and Jack saw my mother every day for the first 10-12 years or so of their lives and now as adults, drive over to the house I was raised in and visit on the back porch with her. How lucky is that?
My mother was going to take her walk after a light lunch. She promised me she would be careful and packed her pedometer, cell phone and pepper spray. Sometimes she swings by and leaves me apiece of fruit or a stuffed pepper.
My sister Amy calls her every evening and checks in. I need to be more vigilant and call her in the morning as well.
I still have time to hug my mother and tell her I love her. Some of my friends no longer have that gift and for that I am truly sorry. I know one day I will join that club they will be there for me.
I love you mom.