Yesterday, my legal-for-the-moment wife and I went for a leaf-peeping drive through the Green Mountains of Vermont. It’s only our second Vermont fall; we moved here a year and a half ago from Seattle. Along with the amazing fall colors is the sense of history this area of the country holds. As we traveled the back roads, I could almost hear the clop-clop of horse hooves weaving their way through the maples and birches. We passed small graveyards that hold the bodies of those who fought for our right to be enjoying a Saturday afternoon drive with our chosen partner. I saw leaves let go and float around us as one season prepares to move to the next.
This shift is echoed as our rights dangle on the judicial, legislative and executive branches of our government. The political wind that is now blowing will cause those leaves to fall. We both cried at the beauty and ugliness that the last week brought.
We arrived home and I heard myself say, “I should call my mother.” Every weekend I struggle with the fact that I don’t want to call my mother. My phone sits on my desk, as my hand stays clenched in indecision.
I used to call my mother every couple of weeks over the course of my adult life–usually on the weekends. Sometimes the space between calls was longer, but mostly because of a busy life and schedule. I confess that I have not spoken to her in over three weeks and can have a month or two pass between phone calls. I fight with the overwhelming guilt versus the slow simmering anger that battle in the pit of my stomach
She has required more help from her daughters in the last couple of years due to age and other factors. We, as a collective, have used our own resources, put aside our differences and past feuds to help the woman who birthed us and raised us.
My three sisters and I are very different and have lived independently from one another our entire adult lives. The situation has brought the sisters closer together, though the weight and tension of the ongoing crisis has shown more cracks in the already faulty foundation. But we are still focused on the main goal–the best interest of our elderly mother. I took on the responsibility of becoming my mother’s Power of Attorney; a role I take seriously. We divided up the different requirements, legal and otherwise to allow transparency in the family decisions.
We share in her welfare. We share in her fate.
But the world around us has infiltrated our own familial country. We have a mother who was diverted from the centrist political standings we were raised with and moved to a righteous place surrounded by people of her own age who long for the easy ways of the 1950’s and the security of their race. A woman who was never political in any way has become an avid Trump supporter. I would understand more if she had always traveled a moral road mapped with psalms and church functions, but she is not a religious person. She is the mother of four democratic daughters and the grandmother of three girls and three boys.
This road has been rocky and we have maneuvered around the buried political bombs with polite conversations that rely mostly on repeated weather forecasts, dining experiences and medical minutiae.
Then the last two weeks happened. And my clenched hand became a fist. I have become resentful that as her POA, I must have her best interests in mind–although clearly, she doesn’t seem to have mine. And then I wonder, has she ever? There are experiences I have never told her about. Even as a young girl, I somehow knew my mother was not the person to confide in. But these secrets are years old, the wounds scarred over but never completely gone.
My internal conversations with my rationale vary on any given day. For example, I should understand that her generation, upbringing, etc. have made her the way she is. But then I think about her equally elderly friends who think independently and are emotionally supportive in ways I wish she was. It’s not that she can’t learn; it’s that she won’t.
I want to hope that she is not worrying and complaining about the treatment of “that poor man” and “what his wife and daughters must be going through.” But I can’t pick up the phone because I know I will want to ask–because I need to ask–and because I already know the answer. I know the tone in her voice will hold the same sneer I heard from men her age this week that said, “You think you are so smart, we’ll show you.” I also know that it will change my personal world in a sad and soul crushing way.
I ask this to any of you on the other side who feel that liberals are intellectual snobs and feel they are above the average voter: Shouldn’t we be? Shouldn’t the younger generations be smarter, better informed, better educated than their elders? Shouldn’t they be striving for new and better ideas for energy? Shouldn’t they be questioning the norms as we evolve as a race? Shouldn’t your children and grandchildren be better than you? More tolerant?
My hand unclenches as I pick up the phone to call Senators and know I should call my mother, but not today. Maybe she will hear my silence. Today was hard enough–and tomorrow more leaves will fall and another winter will be endured. But I look to the spring and feeling the ripe earth fall through my outstretched fingers as hope begins again.