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A little smidgen of service and its rewards

I had plans of writing about someone else’s service today. Did some preliminary scribbles, traced my way through some ideas, let things simmer a bit. But, y’all knew there would be a but, last night I drove Momma down to Tampa to visit my sister and nephew. We spent the night, then spent a long day doing family like things. This was not restful, even with a couple hours quiet time. And tonight, we left Tampa around 8:30 pm and got home a bit after 10:30. It means no long writing session for me; I am too damn tired.

Momma cannot drive, due to a health problem. Daddy and Momma in a car for any length of time is a bad idea, for reason I ain’t getting into. So Daddy doesn’t take Momma down as often as he should. Momma is, even on her best days, and those are less frequent than I might hope, Momma is damn difficult.

There were difficult moments. That’s what will happen in any family when you combine three generations together for any length of time. Our particular group of generations included a precocious and slightly sick four year old, two bossy siblings less than two years apart and a mentally ill parent. But we had a good time.

Before the trip, I found a book on CD for the car ride. Momma loves the TV show Bones. She also loves books by Kathy Reichs, whose real world job and fictive work loosely inspired the TV show. I found one of Reichs books. We listened on the way down yesterday. We listened on the way back home. I wouldn’t say that I like Reichs writing, but I liked listening with Momma.

We had a good time. I helped Momma have some fun. It took me years to give up trying to fix my very broken mother. It took me even longer to find ways to be with her that didn’t hurt me. It helps that I now understand that even when there is no generational legacy of abuse, even when the mother is not crazy, that family time is fraught with squabbling, irritations and tensions in major and minor keys.

It was a small service driving Momma to and from Tampa. It was a small thing to listen to a book she likes and I would not have chosen. But anytime that Momma and I spend together, and I stay present, not longing to get away, anytime I actually enjoy being with her, that is huge.

Here’s a moment I will carry with me, a long stretch of winding, slightly hilly road, almost no cars on the road, the dark outside the range of the headlights deep, the female narrator skillfully giving voice to Southern male sheriff, glancing over at Momma and noticing her face relaxed into the quiet joy of a careful listener.

These small services have made a giant shift in the quality of our relationship. I cannot fix Momma, but I can provide small services, which provide both of us great joy.

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  1. […] a trip to Tampa taken earlier this year, which I mentioned in post way back when, I went with my sister and nephew to a mediocre, overpriced sea food restaurant […]

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