parenting, a forever “job”

When my daughter called asking if I’d visit with her, I didn’t hesitate. My husband quickly arranged for Southwest nonstop tickets to the east coast. I’ve been here a couple of weeks, enjoying a very relaxing time doing what I do best, mothering. Gone all day to rehearsals, my daughter arrives home to a hot meal, lovingly prepared. Cooking for her, someone who not only appreciates a delicious meal, but also the labor involved, motivates me to be the gourmet chef I know I can be. It’s not always in evidence, for I am prone to bouts of laziness, preferring to order take-out. But seeing my daughter walk through the front door, sniffing the air, “oohing and aahing” over the smells emanating from the kitchen, I relish being “Mother of the Year” to my 24-year-old, independent, career ballerina.

Scarfing down a delicious meal, clearing away the dishes and food, we settle down to playing  bananagrams. A nightly ritual, we go several rounds. Where I may have won most games when I first arrived; we are now evenly matched. My daughter wins some; and I win some. We both like the odds so much better than when my husband joins us.

Having been a voracious reader for decades, my husband almost always wins at word games, including crosswords and Scrabble. I’d given up playing these and other games, like cards, with him because he was merciless in his desire to win. He still is. My only recourse then (and now) was to threaten to throw over the game, board, pieces, cards, whatever. Threats and pleas fell on deaf ears. The man was (and remains) a gladiator in his own home, battling until he’s defeated his opponent, left whimpering and pouting, swearing never to enter into another match again…ever! Game playing is the rare occasion when being the youngest sibling in my family and his being the eldest in his, has the hairs on my neck standing straight up in defiance. Unlike the old days of my childhood, I refuse to give in and give up. In other words, I’m no longer inclined to “lay down and die.” Perhaps not engaging in game playing for decades has contributed to our happy marriage of 40 years. Hey, whatever it takes!

Time to get dinner started. Showtime is in an hour or so. Don’t want to disappoint my audience of one. She always appreciates my mothering, whether long distance or in person. It’s wonderful that my 24-year-old still needs me at 61. Parenting has always been my favorite job!

and am glad it’s, forever…hugmamma.

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marriage, the “give and take”

How do couples rack up years of marriage, celebrating anniversaries of 10 years, 25 years, 50 years? I think it takes a great ATTENTION TO DETAIL, to those moments which demonstrate love and concern for the other person.

Small, seemingly insignificant things can make or break a marriage. Does he snore? Does she nag? Does he leave the toilet lid raised? Does she use his razor to shave her legs? Is he a workaholic? Is she a spendthrift? Then, of course, there are the idiosyncrasies unique to each married couple.

My husband is the oldest of 12, I, the youngest of 9. Being from either end of the lineup of children, seems to simplify the dynamics of a relationship. For the most part I’m not leading, and he’s not following. But then when it involves running the household, I’m always leading, he’s always following. I say “Can you empty the garbage?” He says “Yes, dear.” Half-an-hour later I say “Did you empty the garbage?” To which he replies “Not yet.” Hours later with the garbage still not emptied, I decide to drop the matter. I’m not up to going downstairs and out into the garage now either.

Climbing into bed with my husband already snoring, I screw in my ear plugs, settle a pillow down the middle of the bed between us, turn off the light, and wait for sleep to come. I snuggle down into the covers and pull the pillow between us closer to my face, partially covering it. I breathe deeply, aiming for relaxation. Still focused upon the snores emanating from my husband, I reach over the pillow, gently massaging his back between the shoulder blades. It’s enough to rouse him, so that he moves his head further up onto his own pillow. This closes his lips and the snoring stops, temporarily. I may have to repeat the massages a few more times. Most times I eventually fall asleep. On the rare occasion that I can’t sleep, and I have an appointment to keep the next day, I’ll wake my husband and ask him to move to our daughter’s old bedroom. Drowsily, he consents. Grateful, I accompany him next door, settling him into bed and switching off the lights. Smiling to myself in the darkness of our bedroom, I remove the ear plugs and take deep breaths, relaxing while I drift off to sleep. As I do, I can hear faint sounds of snoring resonating through the wall. Sighing to myself, I’m just grateful he’s not “sawing wood” in my ears.

My husband awakes at dawn, fiddles at his computer keyboard, feeds the cats, walks the dog, gets ready for work, and downs a cup of green tea along with a bite to eat. Before leaving for work, he generously turns on my computer, setting up AOL.

At night after eating the dinner I’ve prepared, my husband relaxes stretched out on the couch in front of the TV, half-watching it while reading his e-book. I gather the dishes and wine glasses, putting them into the dish washer, tidy the counters, clean the grit off the stove’s glass top, wash pots and pans, and toss accumulated scraps of food from the sink into the recycled garbage. Before heading off to blog, I offer to get my husband dessert, if we have any.

It’s taken 40 years of honing our skills as to the give and take of being married to one another. We’re no longer compelled to “hang tough” in battling over every inch of common ground we share. When we were young and unsure of ourselves, and each other, we would revert to being 2 strangers trying to cohabit. But allowing ourselves the time to mature and grow old together, has made the “give and take” of married life not so hard to give, and take, after all.

Hugs are good too, lots of hugs…hugmamma.