Twenty: The Me Age

At least, for me it was. Not much was happening. I was studying less (even with a double major in English and Psychology), maintaining great grades, and playing a lot more–dates, parties, football games!

I have not mentioned home much lately. I went home occasionally on weekends, but I had weaned away. I had my own car (a gift from Santa), so I was free to travel back and forth as much as I pleased.

Until I became the mother of adult children, I didn’t fully realize the significance of an incident that happened about this time.

I failed to call my mother on  Mother’s Day until very late in the day. It was obvious by her tone that she was hurt and angry, and at first, I didn’t understand why. Then she told me. I might as well not have called at all, she said, if I was too busy to do it earlier. Was she overly sensitive? Or was I terribly insensitive, too caught up in my own little life? Or maybe she simply felt me pulling away, and it was that sense of loss that hurt her more than the late phone call. She’d had her share of disappointments, after all.

The old house would have to do.

There was the house they didn’t build, even after buying land and hiring an architect. They had the plans and were set to go when my father balked. He was fourteen years older than Mother, and he worried about her being left alone on that hill out in the country. He wanted to be sure that I would be taken care of, too, if something happened to him. So they abandoned my mother’s dream house. She had worked alongside my father for years. They still shared a house with my grandmother.

Wasn’t it time she had something to call her own?

Maybe it seemed to her that I was having all the things she’d dreamed of. I don’t doubt that she was proud of me, though. That was clear, and I was ashamed for neglecting her that day.

We were so mature. We thought swapping sweatshirts was cute.

 

 

Shall I add here that I was in love? That cute boy from the Mississippi Delta, the one with the blue, blue eyes, was turning out to be the one.

I wish I’d been more thoughtful of my mother that day. Is there anything in your young past that you wish you could go back and undo? 

14 thoughts on “Twenty: The Me Age

  1. This was a lovely post. Like the pic of your room. When I went to university, I suddenly became so tidy – friends were seeing my room! – everything was always put away. Heaven knows I’m not like that now. But one small room, I could manage to keep tidy.
    Our family dynamics were so different because of my father’s death. When my brother and sister left for university the same year, leaving only me home with Mom, my brother took me aside and told me to take care of Mom. I was 12. I felt very grown-up and promised him I would.When I eventually left for university, I didn’t come home till Thanksgiving (in Canada, that’s mid-October), then went back again till Christmas. When I came home at Christmas, Mom mentioned that it had occurred to her one Friday evening that if anything happened to her, no one would know until Monday morning when she didn’t show up for school. It was just said in passing conversation, not for any reason, but when I went back after Christmas break, I came home every weekend, for the rest of my university years. Never told Mom why – she’d have been horrified that I took it that way. My friends at University sometimes teased me about going home every weekend.
    Of course, this doesn’t mean I was never rude or thoughtless. I distinctly remember making her cry twice – and she wasn’t a crier.
    Jane Ann
    http://www.janeannmclachlen.com

    1. But you were an insightful, sensitive, loving daughter. I know your mother must have been very proud of you. I’m sure the dynamics were different without your father. How sad that you didn’t have him around. Our household revolved around my dad–his work hours, the foods he loved–and yet he was so devoted to my mother and me, and he got along well with my grandmother–better than my mother did! In fact, in the complicated dynamic of my mother’s and grandmother’s relationship, he was often the mediator.

  2. On one occasion as a teen I made a slurring remark to my Dad about not having money to do something I wanted to do. It was the wrong time; finances were stressed, dad was exhausted physically and emotionally. He collapsed to the chair, nearly missing it, catching himself before he fell to the floor, and with his head down sobbed, “I’m trying as best I can.” … Years later (in my late forties) I felt a need for a long talk with my father. I arranged for no one to come home. When I made my notes for the conversation, I realized it had only words of blessing. I took him out for coffee at the BBQ place located on the Oxford Road. Dad followed that conversation (which I recorded) by taking me to one community after another and church after church where we had lived or he had been pastor. I was exhausted. A week later when my sister Gail called to say Dad was in the hospital, seriously ill, I expressed surprised, saying that he wore me out the week before on the day of my visit. Gail replied, “Gerard, Dad always gets up for you.” I realized that in blessing my Dad, I was blessed. It was not long before Dad was transferred to the nursing home where he remained for six years until his death.

    1. Honestly, teenagers should be locked up when they turn 13 and released when they’re 25. Me included. *L* What a heartbreaking scene, Gerard. I’m glad you were able to spend that special time with your dad as an adult.

    2. I wish I had known your dad better. I had great respect for him and for your mom, and I was amazed at your family–all those kids!–in contrast to my rattling around in a household of adults. I love this story about the two of you. I can tell it’s a treasured memory. That was your real goodbye, I think. I didn’t get to do that with my dad. Thanks for sharing this story, Gerard.

      1. No, but I worked at a party college for many years. Our chapter of Tri Delt had the worst reputation of all the sororities. It may have just been the name, though.

  3. In going through material for the memoir challenge I’ve found some evidence that I hurt my mother more than I remembered. I guess I kind of knew at the time but I thought it was part of what I had to do to be independent and grown up and assumed she accepted it on that basis as well. Maybe on the outside she did. But now I wonder if I couldn’t have found a way to be independent without pushing her away so much.

    1. Great insights, Joy. But it’s what we did, and it’s what kids still do. That pushing away is part of growing up. I agree, though; maybe we might not have pushed so hard. My mother and I were close later on. I think we had to find our relationship on a different plane.

  4. I know, but looking back with the knowledge you have now is not fair. You called and did the best you could.. However I will be regretful if you don’t have that absolutely brilliant suit anymore. Where is it now.. i love it.. sorry i am so shallow! c

    1. Sorry, Celi, I don’t have the suit. It would be politically incorrect now anyway; that’s a *real* fur collar on it. (Actually, I think I might have kept the collar!) Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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