If we are blessed enough, there comes a day when the eyes that have always made you feel safe, loved and protected will stare back at you with the innocence of a child and you will know in that moment it’s your turn. Your turn to care for your parent in the way they have always cared for you, to step up and let them know you’ve got it. New Years’ Eve 2013, I spent the first night of many at the foot of my mother’s hospital bed praying that this was not her time to leave me. As she lay in front of me with wide glossy eyes, the only child of this unyielding force that had guided my life and molded me into the woman I am, was scared each labored breath would be her last. I was scared as hell but poker face intact, I stared back. I showed her the strength I learned from watching her and I put her at ease so that she would get the rest she would need to fight whatever was attacking her body. Behind the hiss of the oxygen machine and the beep of the heart monitor I can hear the countdown ushering in a new year and I can’t help be reflect on our journey.
children. So what was I to do? My plan was to rent my house out and move in with her. Some things never change, so I was prepared for the laundry list of rules that would apply for me and my children moving into her house. I lowered my head and waited for her to begin to list them. I was not, however, prepared for her response. My mother started slowly but surely as she said…. “The children are comfortable where they are, they have friends in the neighborhood. I want to rent my house and I will move in with you….. .”
My single mother Eleanor Jones made many sacrifices, most of which would go unnoticed by me for decades. I noticed the 14-, even 16-hour work days in my teens mostly because of the freedom it offered. I noticed a bit more after I became a mother myself, as she scheduled her vacation around my children’s school breaks because of the money it saved me. However, it wasn’t until I had experienced life awhile myself that I truly paid attention to her dedication to her family. After she retired from more than 30 years of long hours working for the railroad, she was ready for a change and wanted to live closer to me and my children. Ready for a change myself, I convinced her with little more than a few home sale listings Atlanta should be our new home.
My mother spent the better part of 2014 very ill which meant frequent prolonged stays in the hospital. The time she was able to spend at home required constant care managing her mobility, medicine and meals. As they struggled to figure out what was wrong with her, I struggled to manage work, home, children and her care. Suddenly, I was not only a mother but a caregiver to my own mother and I exhausted! Just when I had accepted this as my new life, the doctors finally figured it out! My mother had been exposed to Hepatitis C through a blood transfusion many years ago which was the root of all her issues. Although she has lasting effects she was able to recover and steadily improved throughout 2015. Slowly but surely, I began to disassemble the makeshift hospital room her bedroom had become, but I knew it wasn’t good enough. God had given her health back and now all she was missing was her home.
I must admit, she surprised me with how swiftly she formulated and executed her relocation plan selling her home in California before ever setting foot on Georgia soil. It actually made me a little nervous! What if it wasn’t what she expected? There was no turning back, it was too late now! I didn’t know then that this Georgia plan wasn’t mine but what God had in store to reward her for all she had worked for. I smiled as I reflected on her broad smile as she walked into the kitchen of the home she would buy as she said YES!!! She was beautiful and beaming with pride and I was proud of her. Caught up in the memory, I laughed out loud and quickly quieted myself and watched to ensure I had not disturbed her. Somehow she looked smaller in the bed with all of those monitors hooked up to her and I started to wonder if all of the sacrifices had finally worn her down. My mind began to drift again and I recalled the day I called her to say I had been laid off from my job, a day that came only three months after my marriage ended leaving me single with three
I was glad she was sleeping because the tears now flowed freely in a constant stream down my face, thinking of how sad she had to be to move out of her dream home to help me. Two years had passed and she was still there, good days and bad, she was still there. It was in that moment my reflections turned to prayer and I asked God for strength, guidance and the opportunity to give her back what she had so selflessly offered to me. So began my test.
One of the best days I ever had was when I gave her renters notice to vacate. Once of the worst days I ever had was when I saw the condition of the home once they were gone. Everywhere I looked something was damaged, dirty or missing and I could not believe how the renters treated my mother’s beautiful home. I felt every range of emotion you could imagine, guilt, anger, frustration, hurt, sadness -- all of it overwhelmed me. Eyes blurred with tears, I walked the house and suddenly the only thing I felt was grateful. Grateful for a family matriarch that gives so much of herself and grateful to God for the opportunity I prayed for to return it. Last month I was able to walk my mother back into her home and she never had to see the damage that was done. What she sees is her family worked together to make it beautiful because her sacrifices are no longer unnoticed. Eleanor Jones, your family is grateful for her health, your loyalty and your love. n Robyn Hutcherson