I promised my father before he died
that I would try to keep my mother
in her Ojai home for the rest of her life.
My mom was an unholy terror –
drinking & driving, smoking in bed,
& firing every helper I hired,
yelling expletives until they fled.
After my dad passed she got worse.
(Even though we took away the car keys.)
I would get phone calls at work:
The paramedics would say –
“We are at your mother’s house.
Her head is stuck under the sink.
She’s covered in blood.
She’s been drinking.”
The caregivers would say –
“As of Friday this agency will
no longer serve your mother.”
“You have to get me out of here.
Your mom is driving me crazy.”
My mother’s doctor was very glad
to write the order for Board & Care.
So I began the conversation with my mom –
“You can’t stay there.
It’s not safe for you.
You need to move.”
She said, “I’m not leaving.”
We had that conversation many times a day.
The helpful Board & Care owner said,
“Just let us handle it.
We do this all the time.”
They picked Mom up at her home
& then they called me at work.
“Your mother is threatening to jump out of the car!”
So she & I had the conversation again.
I remember falling to my knees in the parking lot.
My co-workers wondered if I was losing my mind.
For awhile at the Board & Care –
my mother hit people, threw things
& shouted epithets at the nice staff.
But as the nicotine & alcohol faded
her health & mood got better.
She started to call me several times a day,
“Why can’t I come & live with you?”
“Because of the doctor’s orders, Mom.”
Which was true, but it wasn’t the truth.
Finally I told her the real truth.
“Mom, one month & I’d be insane.”
She believed me & began to settle in.
(A nurse told me a year or so ago,
“We have never had a patient like her.”
I said, “She was a nurse all her life.
They tend to be a rather tough lot.”)
I visit my mom at least once weekly.
I have come to like her more than ever.
A few days ago I took her for an outing.
I wish you could have seen her face as
I handed her the Soy Green Tea Blended
through the Subaru window.
We drove up Hwy 33 to Piedra Blanca.
I said, “This reminds me of the road trips
my father, your husband, used to take us on.”
She said, “You don’t have to say that part.
I know that your father was my husband.”
She had to pee out by Rose Valley.
Which is a big deal because
the walker isn’t easy on dirt trails.
But we got her safely to the john.
She said, “You’re just like a mother.”
As we exited the latrine,
I whispered, “Look.”
She gazed around & said,
She closed her eyes & said,
“Smell the trees?”
A moment later she said,
“This is the best day of my life.”
Karma means that on the wheel of lives
every obligation will ultimately be fulfilled.
Thankfully, there are countless ways
to honor a promise once it’s given.