Getting out of the driver’s seat

small river in the Adirondack Park

I wrote the post about my hair yesterday (thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the wonderful, supportive comments. I read them slowly this morning before I started to write and appreciate every one!) and then left for the entire day to take my mother up north to the town where she grew up, Paul Smiths NY; a town in the Adirondack park with only one street; “Easy Street”. That part of New York State is almost like entering another world. Everything seems stark somehow; beautiful, rough, certainly not easy.

We have taken this trip several times in my mother’s life. The last time was a few years ago when my mother and I were really not getting along. I returned home, feeling like I had been raked over the coals….maybe she felt that way too. It seemed we were fighting each other; me asking questions, trying to figure out some of my own history, and her wanting to make me see things her way. Yesterday, she wanted me to drive and she wanted to direct the day.  She just wanted to be “heard” as she recalled being a little girl, playing with friends, working, moving from house to house in this remote, wild place. Her parents didn’t own their own home until my mother was older. They were hard-working and poor.

We slowly made our way past the old homes, many of which were still standing. Some had been “remodeled” (very little “restoring” going on this far north) with vinyl siding and windows, some were left to slowly decay. I was content to be in a “supportive role”. I let her  be the director, set the pace, turn any place that she wanted, stop or not. I liked this feeling. It is relatively new for me to suspend my own curiosity, questions, and interests, for a day and to try to see the world from my mother’s perspective. I learned that she was almost going to name my sister Anne, Victoria. That she had wanted to go in the army, as a nurse, and my grandfather would not let her….little stories.

Yesterday was a good day for me, and for my mother. When she initially asked me to take her, I didn’t have to think about it, I just knew that it was the right timing. If I hadn’t felt this way, I would not have gone. I’ve finally learned that if I am not feeling good about “helping” someone, then it will not turn out well. I’ll exhaust myself and they won’t get a lot out of it either. There is a flow to life that pulls us in, and sustains us, when we trust and go with it.


16 thoughts on “Getting out of the driver’s seat”

  1. Oh Lord….it’s the ‘trusting’ part that always trips me up. Hard to let go of the control I always feel I must have.

    I can relate to your story, Mary, because I take my mom places also, and I try to let her tell her tales because she’s at an age (a very independent 94) where I know she, too, wants to be ‘heard.’ Actually, we ALL want to be heard…to feel our lives are not just a line on a page.

    Thank you for yet another deep-thought post. You amaze me every day.

  2. Mary
    First….yes, you look just smashing with your new hair do!
    Second….congratulations letting things flow with your mom. So hard to do for many of us.
    Good accomplishment and good memories for you to boot.

  3. I struggle in my relationship with my mother too, Mary. When I can get out of the way and see my mother – as her own person – with her own life and history – as a child of her mother – I struggle less, I need less from her. Sometimes it makes me very sad (as I am feeling today about her- a brimming sadness – I might add)- and I think that is the thing that I work so hard to protect myself from…

    But the intimate relationship that we have developed – I say “intimate” – in that there has been a deep sharing that has evolved as a result of both of our letting go has made our relationship so rich, and I feel so blessed to have had her as my mother.

    I still wrangle with her from time to time – still grist for the mill. Thanks for your post today Mary. It resonated very deeply with me today…

  4. Go with the flow … years ago I heard Wayne Dyer discuss the rhyme “row, row, row your boat gently down the stream”, it only gets difficult when we try to go against/up the stream … sounds like you ladies had a nice summer day…

    1. Boy, everything I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten, right, Sue V.? Love that!

      And, Mary, it seemed when you didn’t ” fight the stream ” your mom shared so much. I loved hearing of your good day.

      This knocked me over the head to remember to zip my lip and listen more. It ALWAYS is more productive but I keep forgetting 🙂

  5. This brings back memories of my “memory lane” drives with my mom. They are happy memories of doing the “right” thing, relaxing and listening. There are still so many questions that will never be answered. And maybe she wouldn’t have told me how that “felt,” which is what I really wanted to know. It was more about “I went to school there,” “That’s the barn where we got married,” (Amish wedding), “Uncle Enos lived there”…. She never was one to share feelings but I wish I would have tried harder.

  6. Gosh, seems like so many of us have “mother issues”. I am so glad you are willing to share yours with us Mary. It helps. I dearly love my mother, we all love our mothers, but why is it so difficult to communicate with them? Mom will be 86 soon and has lived with me since my husband died 6 years ago. We have always been opposites — I like neat, she likes clutter, I like “healthy” food, she likes fast food, I try to be positive, she tends to be negative and on and on . . . it is a power battle and I am learning to “go with the flow” and let go of the control. It has taken time! I am so glad you are learning to enjoy your mother, I want to enjoy mine too! I am weary of rowing upstream!

  7. The last paragraph has been put into my ‘Keepers’ file to take out, read over and remember on a regular basis. I’m making good progress in that direction after a lifetime of the opposite…you’d think I’d have caught on sooner! LOL. I sure got lots of headaches and hurt feelings along the way that are now disappearing slowly into the past. Anyway, so happy to hear you and others share the exact same feelings and thoughts!.

  8. My dear Mom passed away almost two years ago. Believe me, once your Mom is gone, the little battles, the typical mother daughter butting of heads – all that disappears, and you remember the good, the good, good, good, so all of you lucky ladies who still have your Mom, treasure her, be patient with her in her old age as we will surely wish to be treated should we live so long. And to all of you on the East coast, – after five relentless days of over 110 degrees heat here in AZ, at least I don’t have Irene in my neck of the woods. I will be hoping she passes you by, and that all are safe and sound this weekend. Love to all our mothers.

  9. Your posts are sooo thought provoking. My Mom has been gone for 12 years now. We were never able to get to the point of her sharing her childhood, dreams, etc. I know sometimes our own strength gets in the way, but you are blessed to still have her and the memories.

  10. I had two sons who graduated from Paul Smiths College. I love the Saranac-Lake Placid Area and have spent many great times on its rivers and mountains. You might like to know that I am 75 now and have a great “buzz” cut. It is my favorite hair cut and, I also, had long braids up to age 50. Long hair makes you look older then and we don’t need that. I am glad you made a decision to cut your hair as well. What is with these men who demand their women have long hair? As to Mothers, my Mom was my go-to person until her unexpected death at age 96. She was living with me for those last four years. We vacationed at the Maine coast every summer for three weeks. I miss you desperately.

  11. Mary, every word of this post resonated with me on every level. My mother died nearly three years ago, and up until the day she died (and even after) I was still listening and learning about her. I sometimes wonder (as did she) who she would have been and what she would have been had she been born thirty years later.

    And I am still learning to take better care of myself in every way (physically, mentally, spiritually) so that, when it is “my turn to listen” to others, I can silence those chattering monkeys and just listen. And learn.

    Thinking of all of you on the East Coast (where I used to live). Stay safe (and Mary, keep that lovely new hairdo dry).

    1. Yes she did! Both of my parents told me that it made me look 10 years younger (which was a big surprise)

  12. what a good day with your Mother. Enjoy these times with her. I know at the end of the day both of you had a good feeling inside. How good that you got to go back to these places with her.
    A new hair style does wonders for the morale! Makes one feel “lighter” some way. I think you look great.

  13. I always read mother/daughter stories because of the issues I have with my own mother. After years of being supportive, listening, and trying to be the “good” daughter, I have finally given up. My mother and I have not spoken to each other since February because, of all things, she became furious when I reconnected with a cousin on Facebook without telling her. She has always had a need to control her children and, therefore, was agitated when we grew up and were able to lead successful lives. She likes children and dogs but doesn’t have much use for adults, including those her own age. We have not spoken because she thinks she is “teaching me a lesson”. Her philosophy is that she won’t call anybody until they call her first. I am 57 years old and I guess I have just had enough. Thank you for letting me get this off my chest. Not all mother/daughter stories have happy endings.

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