Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Change Comes Gift-Wrapped

November 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Monthly Articles

Like a rubber band wrapped on a wrist, my relationship with my mother became even tighter when my father passed away. After 53 years of marriage, the loss meant changes weren’t an option for my mother.

My family felt the immediate impact of losing a beloved spouse and father. I packed my bag and stayed with her as she tackled planning the memorial service. Then my brothers and I spent time preparing my mother for life as a widow. Emotional, personal discussions took place about the coming changes. She divided my father’s personal items to my brothers, shared some of his treasures with friends, and sorted and passed on clothing. Although the experts suggest not making big decisions during the first year after the loss of a spouse, my mother and I approached the subject of living under the same roof.

We’ve always been close but we wondered if the same household would be too close.

Could we set parameters without wounding one another’s feelings? She was worried about cramping my lifestyle. I had anxiety about the possibility of her waiting at the door when I came home late. She worried I would feel the need to tip-toe in the mornings while she slept. I fretted I’d wake her when I headed to work.

Could I adjust to the physical presence of another person when I awoke every morning? Although I’m a morning person, I enjoy the solitude of stillness when I first get out of bed. I also enjoy alone time with God and reading books without noise in the background from a TV or radio. I do research on the net, sometimes for hours.

Would our idiosyncrasies bug each other? Those little things you find cute about someone often become annoying when repeated in close quarters. I put dirty dishes in the dishwasher immediately. She doesn’t like using the dishwasher. I like white space on the walls. She likes the art gallery look.

We agreed on one thing without hesitation. Cleaning wasn’t a priority for either of us. We’d rather spend time creating memories.

We decided to take the plunge and reevaluate in six months. Because I’m a gypsy at heart and not attached to “things”, I sold most of my belongings. She weeded through household items, sold furniture, and narrowed down her kitchen goods. We sorted out duplicates and passed them on.

We considered the need for each of us to have our own bedroom, and more importantly, our own bathroom. No compromise in this area. Based on our needs, we chose a location and a move date. Within a month, we were roommates.

Before long I noticed the issues we twisted over during the initial weeks snapped away from our hearts and minds. Instead of an uncomfortable band, our relationship became a gift topped with a rainbow of fluffy bows.

Living beneath one roof brought an inordinate amount of laughter into our lives. We giggled when a measuring tape didn’t guarantee a picture hung straight. After the third try, we threw out the inch-by-inch preciseness of measuring, stuck a nail in the wall and hung the picture.

We laugh at each other’s “senior moments”. There are many. When’s the last time you laughed so hard your cheekbones hurt? It’s almost a daily occurrence with us and I’m grateful we didn’t miss the opportunities.

We’ve found even the simplest of things are better with two people. Cleaning house is less of a chore when you divide by two. Yes, we clean occasionally – when company is coming. But I hate to vacuum and she dislikes dusting. It works out well.

We suspected dividing expenses would have financial benefits, but it took several months before we the amount of positive impact on our travel budget. We took our first cruise together. Our trip to Ecuador brought each of us our first passport stamp. With a travel partner so close, we constantly research where to venture next. Whether we take the trips or not doesn’t matter. It’s the dream and discussion that make us smile.

I’ve discovered a walking partner makes three miles pass more quickly than walking alone with headphones stuck in my ears. We’ve made a pact that even if one of us isn’t stirring the other will wake them with “get up lazybones.” The enthusiasm of the other roommate helps a growly morning person change from “I don’t wanna” to “I feel better now that we’ve walked.”

Bible studies turn into opportunities of insight about one another and His Word. We’re given chances to share personal feelings and past history, often discovering something new about each another. With experiences a generation apart, we’ve learned our lives may have been varied but share common ground. We’ll approach the same Bible question and have two answers, neither being wrong. We just have filtered them through different experiences.

Whether we tackle a decorating project for a holiday or ask “does this make me look fat”, we’ve discovered two heads are better than one. Need more than one set of hands to complete a task or project? We’re there for one another. Need a piece of jewelry or clothing? Two closets are better than one.

Of course, we’ve also found two minds do not guarantee things will always be smooth. There have been times when one of us walked out the front door with different socks on and neither of us noticed until much later in the day. Like I said, senior moments occur.

The blessing I treasure the most with my mother close? I’ve witnessed a woman gracefully cope with the loss of a beloved spouse. Although my mother didn’t have a choice when my father left this earth, she’s made the choice to be a vivid example of Paul’s teaching from Philippians 3:12. “…[B]ut I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (NIV)

I admire the life she’s created since my father died. She volunteers at several places, plays bridge during the week, quilts and donates children’s blankets, and takes senior classes at the local college. She’s developed a group of strong friends. My worry she’d stand at the door and wait on me were unfounded. There are times I arrive home and she’s still out visiting with friends. Although I’m certain it’s not always easy, she greets the challenges of a fresh city and new life with a smile and sense of adventure. I pray her tenacity and spirit will rub off on me.

In hindsight, we realize while we worried whether we could live together harmoniously, God busied Himself planning our blessings. We never imagined the colorful bows wrapped around the gift of being roommates. And that six-month reevaluation we agreed to do? It’s been more than two years. We haven’t slowed down enough to have that conversation.

When Gail Morris is not pursuing God’s heart and her writing passion, she’s chasing rare birds across America. She is the leader of Southcliff Sisters, a lively group of women from Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.  She’s an active member of North Texas Christian Writers, writes a weekly organic gardening columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is a board member of Fort Worth Audubon Society and has been published in numerous publications. Her novel and work-in-progress entitled God, Alopecia and Me is about her life’s journey. She can be reached at gimbloom@earthlink.net or by way of her gardening column at maggiesgarden.com/Organic_Guide/organic_guide.html.

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