When I was a young mother, I remember going to my mom’s apartment and telling her that I was in a hurry and couldn’t stay long. Seems as if she didn’t understand for she just had one child and that was me. And I had two sons who pulled me in ten thousand different directions every day. She’d always say “Can’t you sit down and spend some time?” And I’d reply “I can’t mom. I’m in a hurry and have so much to do.” Felt kind of guilty but then I reasoned that my situation was twice as much as hers had been –with children. And I would leave feeling somewhat remorseful and yet just knew in my mind that things had to get done and I was the one who had to do them.
As my sons grew older, I had more time but I was still teaching school and the pressure of that was ten-fold. Of course my mom also worked but as an executive secretary and she had no job work to do at home. I did. Was rushing my sons to either swimming practice, football games, tennis or later to pick them up at their summer jobs. Endless it seemed. When I had to stop by her apartment, it was the same thing: “Do you have time to sit down?” And I’d say that things had to be done and I’d do it the next time.
When my sons reached college age and were gone, I was still left with the teacher work at home—something my mom never understood. I’d visit her or do things for her and would sit down but not for long for I felt the pressure on me and would depart not long afterwards. All this time I was married and yes, my then-husband helped with our sons but my mom needed me to help her out as she didn’t drive. And I would but was in my usual hurry mode as always.
When my sons left home for the last time, I found myself remarried and still teaching. The workload of night work increased and it seemed that when my mom wanted something done it had to be right there and then. If I offered to do it the next day, that was met with a big crescendo of “Never mind!” And so it went for years upon years. Time didn’t seem to be on my side and there was never enough of it to go around. I was trying to spend more time with my second husband or so I thought and still in touch with my sons. In retrospect, my mom always had time to take care of them when they were little and was there for them into their teenage years: They were the joy of her life. And by her doing that, it gave me more time to get things accomplished.
My younger son got married first and had three children. I found time on the weekends or after school to take care of first one, then two and then three. And oh were those times incredible. If you are a grandparent, you know what I’m talking about: Every minute spent with them when they were little and older I treasured more than I could say. And yes, I would take my first grandson to my mom’s and we’d stay for a while but then she would want me to stay longer and I would have a deadline to meet. Here I was repeating myself again “I don’t have much time. Next time, I’ll stay longer.” In 2000 I found myself going through a divorce and my mom made time for me; had she not, I’m not sure how I would be coping right now. Still teaching and my grandson was five that year. And yes, I found time to keep him when I was asked. That year my mom found out she had cancer and all that time was a nightmare. She didn’t want to know how much time she had left but her doctor told me: “She has three months to live.”
I made time despite teaching and later on during her final weeks, I took off work to be with her. We sat at her kitchen table and talked and talked—something we had never really done in our lives for she was bound up in her work throughout my childhood. And yet I was bound up in my work as an adult. Still the walls that had been between us came tumbling down and things were said that needed to be said for years. We knew that time was critical. I am sure that she knew that her life was ending soon—she just had to for she put things in order quickly. And then it hit me that I never gave her my time when she asked it of me: I was too busy. My reasoning was that I had to spend time with my sons unlike she had done with me when I was little and into my teenage years. Was it worth it? I certainly feel in my heart that it was the right thing to do and yet I still have that nagging in me of not giving my time to her.
In 2001 she died. There was no more mom to say “Sit down and spend some time.” The divorce was still going on and by this point, my two other grandchildren were born. Yes, I was still teaching and found time to keep them whenever I was asked—I loved it and it took my mind off of things such as finding myself an orphan. That’s pretty devastating even to a grown woman to know that neither parent is no longer there. As my grandchildren got older, I still kept them whenever I was needed. And I could hear my younger son saying “I don’t have time to stay. I’m in a hurry.” Oh boy, here it was on me now—that no time thing. My older married son had no children but yet I would ask him if he could do this or that for me and guess what I heard? The very same thing. But I did understand where they were coming from as both were in overload with working and one with three children at home.
My grandchildren are now seventeen, fourteen and twelve; they are constantly busy and constantly into something. Do I see them much? No and although I definitely remember how it was to be their ages, I find myself wanting time with them. Where did it go? It went fast on wings of an eagle, that’s where it went. Right now I have all the time in the world because I am not teaching and the worst thing is that I am in my mom’s place asking “Why don’t you sit down and spend some time with me?” Reminds me of that song by Harry Chapin “The Cat’s in the Cradle.” In it he sang about how he didn’t have time for his dad; then when his son came along, he gave him time. But when his son grew up and was busy, he needed him only to find out that he couldn’t find the time. It’s one gigantic circle that we create for ourselves and do we have to do it? No. For when you stop and look at your life in retrospect, it is the good times that you remember and how fast they went. But we become as our parents—is it a choice or destiny?
And so I would say to my sons and grandchildren: “I don’t want anything from you except your time.” You have no idea how lonely it becomes at this stage in your life; I’m not one of those demanding parents who insists on things done right now. It comes down to being needed which is one of the top human characteristics. All I need is their time. Choice or destiny? You decide. I have become my mom and now I realize what she wanted and it wasn’t anything tangible. It was being with someone and giving them your time. To you who are reading this, I hope you realize how important it is to your parents or grandparents: Don’t get caught up in the spider web of being too busy. Take the time. It goes by in the blink of an eye. “Can’t you sit down and spend some time?”
Song from you tube
Song from you tube