Shari from Georgia
I'm in Lucerne, Switzerland at the foot of the great mountain, the Pilatus, sitting in a wine garden with a bunch of Swiss locals thoroughly enjoying their wine. Though I've lived in Switzerland for many years, I cannot understand a word of their dialect and for once am truly thankful.
I've just put my mother and her wonderful new husband, Clarence, on the Pilatus cable car, which will take them up and directly down again because it's near closing time. Since it's cloudy, they will probably see nothing. But it's Clarence's great dream to see the mountains of Switzerland, therefore it's priceless. I feel like his fairy godmother.
The five dollars I'm spending on my glass of white wine while I wait is a far, far better investment. Who knows with enough wine I may start to understand the joviality around me. But I don't feel very jovial. I feel tired. I'm much too dedicated a tour guide for my own good. I simply try too hard. Do too much. Care far more than I should, and then usually snap.
Today's different. Today I'm not going to snap. Today's not about sightseeing. Today's about saying goodbye. I have no plans of seeing my mother again. It's quite possible that my last memory of my mother will be of her trudging down the shopping lanes of Lucerne and clapping to the Swiss folk show, and that's okay.
Life is full of choices, and when I consider the amount of money I've spent transporting bodies around the world for these visits, I know it's not the wisest of investments. Given the choice, I can increase the quality of their lives far more by using that money on options that will enrich their lives. Fact is, I could have bought them a really nice little travel trailer for what this trip has cost.
The reality is that seeing me is of absolutely no importance or value to my mother especially when I face the fact she usually has no idea who I am. Being with her is of no benefit to her other than what I do for her when I'm with her. She always goes away well fed, watered, clothed, and entertained. But all that's possible to arrange without me actually being there. Facts are facts-our mutual emotional bond no longer exists. I am of no more importance to her than any other stranger is.
As usual, this morning it was clear she had no idea who I was, but instead of enlightening her, I said, "Let me ask you this. How do you feel about me?" She thought for a moment and said, "I feel comfortable. Pausing, and with a sharp look, she continued, "Although you are a little strict." (She was still miffed that I hadn't let her unload the dishes. My mother and Reidel glasses are not a good mix.)
Referring to her husband Clarence, whom she also couldn't name, I said, "How do you feel about him?" She smiled thoughtfully with what I felt was a bit of embarrassment and replied, "I feel good with him. Safe. When I wake up in the morning and see that he's there, I don't wonder and worry about where I am. I can go back to sleep."
Clarence-the Helen Whisperer. God's precious gift to mother. Her touchstone.
Just before we came to view the Pilatus, we were having lunch near the old bridge of Lucerne. Mother and I were sitting, waiting for the fondue to arrive while Clarence did what Clarence does-he wandered off to take photos. For me, touring Europe is about experiencing a multitude of foreign sights and sounds. For Clarence, it's the amazing number of photos his new camera chip can hold. No doubt he'll be disappointed with the Pilatus; it's pure cloud cover today.
But while he was wandering, I had a moment alone with Mom. It was special, a gift. It was a time when she was totally clear and the moment was right. She had just said something which ended with, "... I don't know what's wrong with me." And to that I answered simply, "Mama, you had a stroke and you come in and out of it. That's why you can't remember things. Your brain was hurt."
Clear-eyed, she looked at me and quietly said, "When?"
I said, "About ten years ago," and gently I added, "and God gave you a wonderful man who takes care of you." Distracted by the thought, I began scanning the crowd for our rogue photographer. I was truly surprised when after a moment she continued, "Then I need to pray and ask the Lord that I die before him."
Gazing at her, I gave a slight nod in understanding. It was my prayer, too. Suddenly, this was my mother talking. The one who has always believed in prayer. The one who has always known the One who answers prayer. The wonderful woman who had taught me about prayer, too. And how to trust fully in the One we always run to.
We were silent for a moment. Then, as quickly as an afterthought, she leaned forward and urgently whispered, "Will you take care of him?"
I answered her, "Absolutely." Clarence has been God's great gift to me as well as to my mother. He will do well by me. Relieved, she relaxed. The fondue arrived, Clarence returned and the moment was gone. All her thoughts were about him and whether or not we'd be having ice cream for dessert. And whoever I was to her, it seemed right that I would join them.