Tackle it Tuesday--Relationships
Last Thursday afternoon my mom phoned me--she sounded much better. She is recovering from her second eye surgery to repair her right retina. The recovery from her first surgery went very well; this one has been more demanding. She is 73 years old, walks with a cane due to hip and knee replacements, and without her vision, she feels terribly homebound. She lives in a Senior Housing Apartment Complex, and because she continues to work after her retirement, has not spent a lot of time getting to know the other ladies who live nearby. The Senior Complex calendar is filled daily with fun activities that they all gather to do--but Mom loves working and resists really retiring!
For several weeks, she has been sitting alone in her apartment, struggling to see, listening only to the Christian TV station she loves. Her mind has been racing with a review of her life and she has been struggling to keep herself busy so as NOT to think about her life before 1980--the year she turned her life over to Jesus.
Let me just say, I have worried for my mom over the last few weeks--it is one thing to help your mother recover physically from surgery but it is quite simply....another....to worry about her emotional well-being. Today, as my mom talked to me on the phone, she explained what she has learned while she has been feeling so blue. Not only has she been listening to that Christian TV station--she has been listening to God.
Not being able to return to work as quickly as she planned pre-surgery, she has been trapped in her sweet Senior Apartment, forced with nothing to do but think. God has used this time of forced solitude to show her "He is not done with her yet!"
One of the things that our family struggles with is the lack of intimacy, real connection, that happens when you grow up with an alcoholic in the house. As children, we knew that Mom's attention was distracted by her husband's daily alcoholic stupors and predictable battering. We loved our Mom, but learned to expect that she was otherwise busy and could not nurture in the way that every child deserves. She did her best in the midst of the battle--in fact, every landlord of every house we rented gave her high praise for her housekeeping--as he delivered the eviction notice to our front door. When I say "you could eat off her floors".....I mean it! When everything in her life was falling apart--my mom cleaned. Sadly, a spotless home does not suffice as rent money due.
This day, as she talked about why she was feeling so much better....she entered into a conversation that I was not expecting and had long ago stopped praying for. She said, "I'm so sorry, Diane, for failing in so many ways." For several minutes, she spoke the words that years ago I longed to hear. She identified not just the details--but the ramifications of each loss. She outlined the hardships we faced as children without making excuses as she has done for decades. She said, "I know saying I'm sorry is so empty.....but I am."
Empty? With just those two words, my mom told me, "I get it, Diane." For the next few moments, I listened, as she shared the words that told me she understood her part in our lack of connection and real family dynamic. It wasn't the "I'm sorry" as much as it was the conversation that ensued following each "sorry." She had given this some thought. She had set aside self-pity and a life long practice of seeing herself as the victim; God had brought her to this solitude to help her see with her mind's eye a mother's role in her children's life.
I am stunned! Well, really not stunned as in the shocked-to-your core kind of stunned. It is a quiet awe. Yes, even at the age of 53, we can be nourished by our mother's words.
As a child, I longed for my mother to understand; as a young girl, I longed for my mother to take our pain and make it all go away. As a rebellious teen, I longed for my mom to have the courage to save herself....and to save me. Brokenhearted, my worldview predicted that she was unable and maybe even unwilling to do what "understanding" required.
More than 40 years have passed since I ran away, brokenhearted. My heart has experienced healing throughout the decades, and still, my mom and I have struggled with a n'er spoken and not seen barrior. No matter how reasonable the explanation, no matter how compassionate the listening heart, a mother's inability to love herself leaves a lasting impression on her children.
As important, perhaps even more, than a clean house is a clean heart. Relationships can be difficult, but God is so faithful. He is honoring my mother's obedient walk by giving her the desire of her heart--intimacy with her children. After missing the mark in the days of our youth, she is a shining example of Philipians 1:6, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." In 1980, my mom gave her life to Jesus. This day, she gave her past to Him....and He is faithfully doing His good, He is tackling the desires of her heart............and the hearts of her children.