by Nancy Hoag
In one way, the texts contained no surprise: A widowed friend living in another state was lonely, and found far too much time on her hands in spite of her church involvements. Plus, she was feeling overwhelmed – now she had to manage house repairs, lawn care, gardening, shopping, decision making, all on her own. And she had no one to help her figure out what her car mechanic was recommending.
But I was also surprised: She has four grown children, all living within three miles of her home, I thought, and nearly a dozen nearby grandchildren!
Why did she have to face all of these challenges by herself? Were her children too busy to help her? Did they not realize on some days, even “minor” decisions can seem like too much to face alone?
Recently, my husband and I concluded children often grow up believing their parents have everything under control: Moms are fixers, don’t mind helping out, and do great without help from their kids. That might be okay for children to believe when they are children, but as grown-ups with aging parents, children need to rethink their assumptions.
Maybe their parents – especially widowed parents – need more than to be called upon.
My friend, for example: Another time, one of her daughters was going with girlfriends on a short cruise and needed puppy care. My friend likes dogs, so that wasn’t a problem – but she said, “I wouldn’t have minded getting out of here mid-winter, too.”
Couldn’t they just call and ask her over for supper, or even out for a workday lunch break?
Weeks later, another of her children called to ask not if she’d ride along on a visit to a grandchild at college, but if she could water her houseplants. And, on the same day, still another asked her to look after her cats while she traveled into the city for a show and dinner with friends.
At the same time, no one nearby thought to call and ask if she would like to do something special. I thought about her children.
“It never enters their heads that mothers might feel overwhelmed or lonely,” I said to my husband.
Couldn’t they just call and ask her over for supper, or even out for a workday lunch break? Even my husband and I sometimes wish we had someone else with whom to share a dinner – and we already have each other for spontaneous getaways, morning walks and working through decisions.
I was pondering this situation when we visited my friend in her home not long ago. I remember her phone ringing.
My friend hadn’t yet dressed or done her hair and makeup for the day, but the call did visible wonders: It was her son, asking, “How about coffee?”
“Coffee!” my friend nearly sang. Within minutes, she was out the door, delighted and happily laughing! We also were happy for her and said a quick farewell.
It was the start of a new idea for her son that they could try to meet every week. Maybe he had finally realized that even mothers—at whatever age—sometimes get lonely.
Nancy Hoag is the author of numerous book and has been a frequent freelancer for Valley Living.