This is something I wrote 2 years ago when my mom decided she no longer had the strength to fight her cancer. It was a huge turning point for all of us. I love, and miss my mother very much.
My entire life I’ve waited to feel like an adult.
In my youth, I imagined that when I turned eighteen it would be official. I would be out of my parents’ house, I could vote – man, that’s when I would finally be an adult. Funny thing, though, I didn’t feel like an adult.
Ok, well, twenty-one then. I would definitely feel adult when I could buy alcohol legally. Nope, still felt the same, just perhaps a bit tipsier on occasion.
I also thought when I got married I would feel adult, yet it seemed more like we were a couple of kids playing house. Having our own kids didn’t help me feel older (although I certainly feel more tired). Thirty didn’t push me over the edge either. Now, on the eve of my thirty-fourth birthday, I can officially say that I am finally the adult society has considered me to be over the past sixteen years. Why?
Well, maybe because my natural hair color is coming in gray – thanks to my father’s ingenious thinking I like to say I have “platinum highlights.” Or that the girl who never wore make-up now makes it a part of her daily routine, covering all those laugh lines (why should smiling be so hazardous?) Maybe because I have to watch what I eat past seven o’clock at night or I face inevitable indigestion. Or possibly even the fact that I must constantly search for those pesky “old lady” chin hairs that keep creeping onto my face (where the heck do those things come from? I’m certainly not old enough for that! UGH! Thank God I can still see them to pluck them out, I guess).
I struggle to balance a check book and a mountain of bills, knowing that we can’t afford everything we want and learning to be satisfied with what we have. Saving money is no longer easy as I can’t find any expendable income after paying the mortgage, taxes, utilities, kids stuff, etc. (in fact, I have IOUs to both my children posted on the fridge since they both seem to have more money than I do these days. Sad, but true, I know). Without my morning coffee I’m a zombie and, in the evening, I usually partake in a glass of red wine to calm my nerves. I can no longer run a 10K without training, and I am even starting to look around at the world and think “Gosh darn, dumb kids and their horrible sense of fashion, music, _____”- go ahead, fill in the blank.
Despite all of the above, this transition into accepting I am finally an adult really has no chronological or physical measure.
Tonight, as my child’s heaving sobs over a broken lollipop – wishing it “to go back to the way it was, to go back to normal,” – suddenly morphed into, “Why does Nana have to go live with Jesus? Will she ever come back and visit? Why does Papa have to sleep alone and will he miss her? And what if you leave me?” I come to realize that I am now the strong one, that safe place, the protective force that my mother was for me. I am preparing to stand alone without my mother. I am stepping into the role that she occupied my entire life and in that, there is a lot of growth and maturing. Now, as I care for my mom in her final days, as well as for my dad and my own family as we all prepare, I finally feel adult.
Sure, being adult can be marked by age, marriage, kids, paying bills, a drink now and then, gray hair, indigestion, and a cantankerous attitude toward youth, but more than anything, it’s learning to treasure the moments we have and the people who help occupy those moments. It is being ok with who we are and letting go of the things we cannot change.
I will miss my mom, but cling to the moments that remain, and reflect on happier times passed. There are things I know we never worked out, but it no longer seems as important as ensuring we know we love each other. I am beginning to understand that some things in life may never find true resolution. Some hurts and scars may never fully heal. We may never know the answers to some of our greatest questions, and perhaps being ok with that is where we actually find freedom. We will cherish the good and try to forget the bad. And when we cannot forget, we learn to forgive.
I don’t want to look forward to a future without my mom, but I know I will be ok because she taught me to be the strong, independent, caring and smiling (thanks for those wrinkles again) woman I am today. And I know, sometime in the not-so-far-off future, we will all be together again. So I raise a glass to adulthood, and if it passes as quickly as my youth, I’d better drink up fast!