Have To? I’d Love To.

Nan and Mom 2One day, several years ago, I was leaving work and in the process of saying goodbye to co-workers I said, “I have to go see my mom.”

Have to.

Mom lived in a nearby assisted living community. She was in her mid-80s and she was fit as a fiddle physically, but her dear mind had begun to play some pretty significant tricks on her. Visiting mom was pretty much a daily event. You know, routine. “I have to go to work, I have to go see Mom.”

I didn’t mean anything by it, that “have to” I tossed out there. In the moment, I didn’t really even realize how I had said it…or how it may have sounded. And I doubt anyone else gave it a second thought.

But I did.

On the drive over to spend some time with my mom, my heart reached up, tapped me on my shoulder and said, “Hey…you don’t have to go see Mom. You get to. Remember that. Because someday you won’t have to and you sure won’t get to.”

Oh heart, you wise and wonderful muscle! How right you are, I thought.

You have to go to the dentist. You have to pay your taxes. You have to take out the trash.

Mom and her girlsBut spend time with your beautiful 85 year old mom? Spend time with the woman who rolled your fine little girl hair on those pink spongy rollers every night in an attempt to have curls for even a minute the next day? The woman who made your family amazing fried chicken every Monday evening in the pre-cholesterol concern era? The mom who dutifully drove you to the horse barn every non-school morning and then repeated the trip to pick you up every single evening? The mom who encouraged your love of drawing and who saw a spark of something good in your early writing? The mom who was always 100% there for you, even when you didn’t really realize it?

That’s a get-to visit. A grab and cherish every moment you can get-to.

From that day forward, I consciously changed my phrasing and my attitude from “have to” to “get to.” Oh sure, some days weren’t easy. Some visits were taxing, emotional, and draining. My mother, in the grips of dementia, was not always the sweet, compassionate, gentle, fun-loving woman who raised me. Some days it seemed nothing made her happy.

But still, I did get to see my mother. And for each of the days, in the last years of her life, that were a bit of a struggle, there were 10 days that were great ones. Most of our time together we laughed, we sang, we danced, we held hands, we played with one of my dogs, we talked, we walked together, we conquered Bingo as a team, and we loved each other. Always.

Now, I don’t get to see my mom. It’s Mother’s Day and I don’t “get to.”

But I do get to celebrate her. I do get to remember her. I do get to feel her spirit alive and well within my heart…the heart she created and nurtured. She didn’t have to. She wanted to.

Do you have to, or get to? We should all think carefully about the ones we love, the ones who spent a lifetime caring for us, and who perhaps need to lean on us these days. “Get to” now because some day you won’t be able to, and you’d sure love to. I’d sure love to.

mom and donkHappy Mother’s Day, Margaret Kirk Gallimore. You were and are loved so dearly. You are missed every single day. What a cool, amazing, fun mom I get to remember.

Thank you for sending me seagulls and for popping into my head every time I find a button for our jar. 

3 thoughts on “Have To? I’d Love To.

  1. Love this post, really hit home. My dear friend just lost her 80+ mother very suddenly and this really keeps things in perspective. My parents are “gone south” half of the year now and when they come back sometimes I feel like “I have to” and I really need to change that to “I get to”. Thanks Nancy!


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