I repeat to myself often, ‘my expectations are mine, no one else’s.’

I moved across the country to the town I grew up in, to live close to my mom. Being 3000 miles away, made my heart ache. I saw on visits and heard on the phone, the boundaries of her life growing smaller and pictured her going through her days, increasingly solitary, since my dad died 2 years ago.

On one visit I was talking with a neighbor and told her I worry about her being lonely, and she said to me, ‘don’t you get lonely sometimes too?’ It was an insightful question, but my brain and heart said, it’s ok for me, I didn’t have a life partner for 60 years. Mom, like many of her generation, never lived alone.

And she’s not one of those moms who guilts you into coming over, visiting, talking to her daily. She speaks often in an overly positive voice, everything’s fine, she’s very busy. And she does like her routine which I understand and wince at, because I don’t want to be that bound when I’m older, but of course, fear I will. She doesn’t like to do anything out of her routine or what she has thought of. She says no, a lot. She can be cool, she can be short in her declines, she is what she was, she is who she is, but more so.

When adult children’s broader perspectives meet our elderly parents’ often narrowing views, can we hear each other as people, or only child-parent and parent-child? 

Did we even know each other before, as child and parent?  Do we know each other now? And what happened in the middle of all that. Where were we? Well, I know, we were in Life. As we still are.

I suspect some of us adult kids want so much more from our older parents than they want or can give. I’d love to review some of the mysteries and know what she felt as a woman and mother. There are glimmers of connection but more often there just aren’t. I suspect there could be more if I cultivated more patience.

She is content.  She does what she seemingly wants. I’m here. It’s usually enough.

I’ve read about how people age. I know she is doing really well compared to others. It’s ok if she doesn’t want to go out as often as some other older women we know, it’s ok if she only wants to socialize with a certain few of her friends. It’s not ok with me that she doesn’t seem to care one way or another if I’m here or not.

It sometimes hurts that she doesn’t want to stop by my place every now and then. But driving anywhere frivolously isn’t in the cards anymore. She likes being in her home or at the various regular places she goes. Plus there’s that left hand turn out of my street, unless she goes right and home down the road she doesn’t like. I adjust my expectations.

My emotions get mixed up when she doesn’t seem to care if I stop by her house or arrange a visit or not. Once I’m there, she’s generally very sweet, but it seems she wouldn’t mind if I ever came by.

I also know that I don’t know what she feels, really.  There are moments of sharing emotions, but they can be few and far in between. If I had to guess, I’d say mom usually lives in a state of contentment and slight anxiety.

Of course when my brother comes by and visits, it’s pretty much a holiday and her happiness can be felt and seen for miles. In her eyes, he is the man of the family now (is her generation the last that uses that phrase seriously?) and she likes that. The fact that my two sisters and I are strong, independent, and smart women, is just, well, nice. Brother is elevated. We’re not jealous, but it’s frustrating. I came back here to spend this time with my mom so I wouldn’t have regrets later. My expectations. Not my mom’s.