THURSDAYS WITH MOMMY
(with thanks and apologies to Mitch Albom)
I have a ritual. Every Thursday I wipe my schedule clean and spend the day with my mother. I’m very lucky that I don’t have a regular 9 to 5 job, so I can afford to do this – and I don’t necessarily advocate this for everyone. Some people would probably wind up on the front page of the newspaper if they tried to spend a block of several hours with their mother. There, I’m lucky, too. My mom and I have a wonderful relationship. We can talk for hours about everything and nothing. Yesterday we gave each other facials. We took her little dog, Mugsy, in the car and went out for a drive. We took a walk. You might say it’s nothing to write home about, and I guess it’s not. But all the same, I wouldn’t trade that day for anything.
“Anything?” I can hear you asking yourself. Well, I’ve turned down many an appointment. Anyone who knows me knows that Thursdays are my day with Mom. They know I won’t schedule anything. On rare occasion, I have asked Mom if I could switch our day to Friday so that I could make a doctor’s appointment. A couple of times I had to be out of town on a Thursday. That’s it. I consider my Thursdays with Mom sacred. It’s not too strong a word.
Four and a half years ago, when I lost my father, I realized that he and I had not had very much time together. Partly it was because it was hard to talk to my father. He was one of those distant, preoccupied fathers who seemed to be embarrassed by small talk with his kids. He often resorted to platitudes. He found excuses to be elsewhere when a conversation threatened to break through the surface to a deeper level. And when we talked politics, it was a disaster. He thought I was an addle-brained liberal. I thought he was a hopeless reactionary. (In other words, we had a father-daughter relationship that was fairly typical of the times).
When I moved away from Pittsburgh to go to college in Boston, I moved away for good. Nobody really planned it that way, but that’s how it turned out. After I graduated school and was a married woman, I moved to Virginia for a few years, then to New Mexico, then to New York, and finally to California, with a six year interim in Tennessee. So for the last thirty-two years of my father’s life, I lived in another city. I came back to Pittsburgh for occasional visits, usually on holidays or for my father’s birthday. I would stay for three or four days and apart from once-weekly telephone conversations, that was the extent of my time with my father.
When Daddy was given the news that he probably had less than six months to live – he had lung cancer – I decided to take a trip to Pittsburgh to spend some time with him. I was there for about a week. For the first time in my adult life, I got to sit down with my father and we discussed what was in our hearts. Daddy told me that he was sad that he could not leave his kids all that he had hoped he would. I told him that he had given me everything that mattered; he had given me a healthy sense of humor and a sense of right and wrong. He had given me an appreciation of good music. He had taught me about integrity and how to mix a martini. He taught me about courage. He taught me about myself. When I told him all this I was afraid it would be too little to late, and I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to take it in. Amazingly, though, he seemed to truly listen. He seemed to not only take in my words, but to gain some peace of mind from them. And I thought how sad it was that we had not availed ourselves of the opportunity to talk like this much more often. We could have been such good friends.
In the same year that Daddy died, I was faced with a cancer diagnosis. Art and I made the decision to move back to California from Tennessee so that we could be near my family. It was the best decision we ever made. Not only would it be good for me as I made my recovery, but it would be good for my mother whose health has been less than perfect for a long time.
So I’m determined that, no matter what else may happen between me and my mom, we will never have to sigh and ask ourselves why we didn’t take the time to get to know one another. We are becoming closer with every passing week. It gives us both a sense of connection and a feeling that there is something in this world we can rely on. Something that we can look forward to. And honestly, I do look forward to my Thursdays with Mommy. How many 54 year-olds can cry on their mothers’ shoulder when the chips are down? I feel very blessed.
© 2004 Robin Munson