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    BWS Stories - "I Want You Back"...Caring For Our Aging Parents

    "I Want You Back"...Caring For Our Aging Parents - The Mother I Want

    Sandra McGarrity lives in Chesapeake,Virginia, 800 miles away from her mother, Virginia Holmes. You may visit her at

    The Mother I Want

    The plane reached its altitude and I sat back to relax for the last leg of my journey. I had spent the previous four weeks with my parents due to my mother having had brain surgery. The plane was taking me to the place I longed for; back home to my husband.

    My mother had suffered severe headaches for years. Watching her decline in health was difficult since she had always been vigorous. With my mother in her seventies and myself in my forties, life was just so different than I had ever imagined it would be. My sisters and I had felt inadequate to the task of caring for the one whom had so lovingly cared for us over the years.

    My whirling thoughts made relaxing on the flight impossible. I began to go through the contents of my purse hoping to find paper, since writing is often a vent for my emotions. I found a pad of post-it notes and a pen. During the next hour I filled front and back of every page in the pad with a letter to my mother that I would never mail.

    My Dear Mother,

    On this day, I need to remember you as you were. I don’t know if I am clinging to childhood, or if I just want you to cling to life, either way, forgive me if I am being selfish. Your life was once so strong and held firmly in place by your capable hands, now it seems to be too easily slipping through feeble fingers. Hold on, hold on, hold on; don’t let go just yet!

    I want to see again the way you shrieked with laughter as you twirled our hula-hoop around your slender waist, hips swaying like the little hula dolls we used to put in the back window of the car. I want to watch while you teach my sister to ride a bike and to see your grin when you let go and she stayed on. I want to see you jump a rope as well as the young girls, or to see you sit cross-legged, tuck your feet in, and walk around the room on your knees.

    I want you to take me to school early and drill multiplication flashcards with my fourth grade class until the teacher arrives. Remember how my classmates protested when you got ready to leave? Even though Mrs. Bain was our favorite teacher, ever, she wasn’t you. I want you to be the “room mother” for our class every year. I want you to sew little school dresses for me with sashes and lace-trimmed collars; the ones you used to make with full, twirly skirts so I can have contests at recess to see whose skirt twirls out the farthest.
    I want you to tenderly nurture our little dog, Boots, when she gives birth to a litter of puppies. You made her a soft bed and spoiled her until she loved you more than anyone in the family. I want to giggle while you feed her wienies from the refrigerator when Daddy isn’t looking.

    I want you to watch “Captain Kangaroo” with me and call to Grandfather Clock to wake up. I will, once again, watch “As the World Turns” with you and cry when Penny recovers from her amnesia. I want to eat chili with crackers crunched up in it and big, sour pickles for our lunch while my older sisters are at school and I have you all to myself.

    I want you to lay me down on the kitchen counter and wash my long hair in the sink, then, to sit under your hairdryer with the soft hood that puffs out like a ladies bouffant hairdo. I want you to slick my hair back into a ponytail and tell me how pretty I am.

    I want you to take me to the most wonderful store in the world, the dime store. You will buy me a Golden Book and some coconut bonbons. Afterwards, I want to ride the mechanical horse out front while you look on, your smile as big as mine.

    I want to come home from school to the smell of warm, peanut butter cookies. I want your you-can-count-on-it-every-Friday-night hamburgers and French-fries. You remember the burgers you patted out yourself and the fries you cut from fresh potatoes for a “quick” meal. I want the colored ice cubes in the lemonade at my birthday party.

    I want you to drop my sisters and I off at the Movie Theater with two quarters. I will know that you will be outside to pick us up when the movie is over and that I will, never, in my life, have to wonder if you will be there.

    I want you to be the mother that took us to Sunday School and Church every week, come rain or come shine, and the mother that took me to Vacation Bible School every summer. I want you to be the mother that bought us pink, organdy, Easter dresses. You always bought white purses, broad-brimmed hats with ribbon streamers, and fresh, white gloves for church because it was the most important Easter event of all.

    I want you to be one of the few mothers that thought Herman’s Hermits were cute, in spite of their long hair. I want the mother that just laughed when the Optometrist called to see if you really said I could have those wire-rimmed glasses. I want you to be the mother that helped me to make tie-dyed tee shirts and let me paint my bedroom yellow and purple with a huge sunrise. You bought a rug to cover the hardwood floor when I spilled purple crystallizing paint on it.

    I want you to be the mother that didn’t get mad when you found out that I ordered Sex and the New Single Girl from the book club. You didn’t even check it to see if it really was about having a career and an apartment, like I told you. You trusted me.

    I want you to be the mother that made a pink, formal, prom dress in less than a week and a white wedding gown less than a year later. I want the mother that flew six hundred miles to be with me when my husband was sent overseas. I want the mother that took my daughters to her house to watch “Sesame Street” when I had a headache.

    I even want you to be the mother that slicked my hair down with spit, made my sisters and I kiss and make up, and made me tell God I was sorry when I said “*&#$”. I want you to be the mother that smacked my shoulder when I had a temper tantrum at the age of fourteen. I would even take the mother that always had an eleven o’clock curfew and only allowed us out on weekends. I would gladly accept when you made me go to bed, clean my room, pick up after myself, and always take my turn at washing dishes.

    Most of those days are long past and I know that they cannot return. You have been fighting illness for five, long years. It has sometimes caused your daughters to do those things for you that you used to do for us. I have sometimes had to be “the boss”. I have sat and held your hand, like you did mine, so many times, when I was in pain.

    I’m not so sure if I like this turned-around-world. This thing of growing older is not always fun for either one of us. I can’t change this thing called life, but, I can have you back, the way you used to be, anytime I want. I only have to recall the wonderful legacy of memories that you created and left for me. I will always love the mother that you were. I will always love the mother that you are.

    With love from,
    Your daughter

    The plane landed minutes after I penned the last word.

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