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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  March 15, 2009
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Topic category:  Other/General

Change of perspective.

Three miles and 10 minutes. Thatís all it took to completely change the way I look at my mother. Youíd think something like that would take a bit longer. It doesnít.

I was in New Orleans last week to visit her. Sheís in her mid-80ís now, I hadnít been there for a while, the weather was better than it was here, and it was just a good time to go.

Mom gets around the house well, drives herself to church, takes my brother to his day-care facility, and does her own shopping. She works in her garden, cooks for herself, does her own laundry, and has no debilitating physical problems.

True, she tends to forget things and repeats herself every now and then, but sheís still mentally sharp and talking with her about the characters we knew as cousins, uncles, aunts and friends is fun.

But last week, she worried me in a way that sheís never worried me before.

Weíd taken the day to go back to ďthe countryĒ to visit members of our family who live in a rural area about 90 miles from New Orleans. My sister had left her car Ė new, and with an excellent air-conditioner (an absolute necessity in any vehicle down here) Ė for us to use.

We had a good time and got back home in the early evening.

I knew my sister would need her car the next morning and asked mom if she could follow me to my sisterís house. That way I could drop off my sisterís car and drive back with my mother.

Itís three miles and 10 minutes from my motherís house to my sisterís front door Ė a trip that weíve made together many times. Over the years that Iíve been away from New Orleans, I know that momís made that trip hundreds of times on her own.

Itís a simple route with only a few turns to make and one major intersection to cross. By now, though, it was getting dark and maybe I shouldíve known better, thought a little harder about it all, or followed her because, when I looked into my mirror at that intersection, I saw her turn right.

It took me a few minutes to get turned around and, by then, Iíd lost her, so I continued to my sisterís figuring (hoping, really) that she was just using another route that we both knew well.

After waiting an hour at my sisterís, though, I knew something was wrong, so I drove back to her house and found that she wasnít there either.

I asked a neighbor to keep an eye out, gave him my cell number, and went back to my sisterís to wait.

Finally, about 90 minutes after all of this had started, she pulled into the driveway.

Ask any parent what it feels like to lose track of a child for any amount of time and then Ė after enough time to get the ďworryĒ gene really cranked up - find the child. Relief comes flooding in followed by the desire to unload all of that pent up worry on the one who got lost.

I didnít do the unloading though, because I could see that she was upset at having gotten lost and was busy apologizing for being late.

I guess the changeover from the idea of your parents caring for you to the other way around always occurs at some point in life, but itís never really expected. Thatís because itís hard to comprehend the idea of those who protected you now being in a situation where you may have to take over that role for them.

By now, I thought Iíd pretty much be heading into retirement with most major decisions made and the shelves in my ďstuff to worry aboutĒ cabinet starting to look a bit bare. Instead, Iím thinking about my mother getting lost or doing other things that might put her in harmís way.

My sister and her husband who live in New Orleans have probably been doing this (quietly and without fanfare) for a while and bear most of the burden because Iím half a continent away. That really eats at me because I want to be there but canít be.

A short drive at dark and, now, I see the slower and less certain walk, the wrinkles on her hands, and the age lines etched in her face.

A short drive at dark and, now, I see the woman who bore me, raised me, comforted me, worried about me, and protected me in another light altogether.

But itís awfully hard for me to digest this new relationship.

And thatís because I never really wanted the old one to end.

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright © 2009 by Larry Simoneaux
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