Heartfelt thanks to LORI SONESON ODHNER, whose Marriage Moats regularly inspire uplift delight her devoted family friends fans, for permission to share the following, written about her mother. It captures the countless dark times where, faced with seemingly impossible situations, we’re asked to chose between doing what is convenient, even sensible, and what is right.
Having my mother move in with us for her final five years was not my first choice. My preference would have been for her to live down the street for the rich period of her fifties and sixties when she could still walk across the room without needing to catch her breath. Stop in for tea when the kids were little and play the finger songs she had sung with me. Pick up a few groceries while she was at the store anyway and leave them on my counter. Clap wildly at recitals and be there to see them blow out candles.
But that was not how it played out. She lived three thousand miles away for the decades in which I was raising children, and they mostly knew her from photographs and a quick blast through visit in the summer. One time we climbed into her car from the airport and she and I began non stop talking when the toddler beside me asked who she was.
But as a consolation prize we built her an apartment off our back door when we bought this house, the one John never saw until closing day. The one we grabbed not because the roof was old and the basement leaked but because it was on Alden Road in my hometown. It was a cute apartment, with roses on the wallpaper and an efficiency kitchen. Two recliners so she and I could chat with a baby in each lap, though no one knew I was pregnant when the first hammers started pounding. Probably God knew.
It was inevitable that her mania would creep in. There was no expectation that it wouldn’t. But that did little to soften the blow. After an especially tumultuous episode my siblings plunged into a plan B. Move her out and into residential care. Surely I could not deal with her on top of my own children.
Coincidentally John was composing a song to surprise me for Christmas. It was barebershopesque, reminiscent of the quartet my father belonged to. He practiced downstairs after I went to sleep with a twin in each crook, accompanied by the resident night owl. Benjamin.
After the dancing when everyone’s gone,
After they turn out the light,
After the bright stars have faded with dawn,
I will remember this night.
After the petals all fall from this rose,
After the green grass is dry,
After the warm summer rains turn to snows,
My love for you will not die.
All through the winter’s cold winds and squalls,
I will still love you, after it all.
After I’ve said something thoughtless or cruel,
When things that I do make you cry,
I’ll ask forgiveness for being a fool
And beg you for just one more try.
After our grandchildren’s children are old
And mountains have washed to the sea,
After the sun and the stars have grown cold,
Wherever you are I’ll be.
From the dawn of our love to the last shadow’s fall,
I will still love you, after it all.
When he sang it for me, having recorded all four parts by himself, I cried. Of course. And in the following days I heard another voice layered beneath his.
My father. He was acknowledging that the petals were indeed falling from this woman, my mother, his Rose. She was as noisy as a squall. But he was asking. Begging me to give her just one more try.
She stayed. For which I am deeply grateful.
My mother and Benjamin had a sweet connection. Two misfits, who could not figure out how to keep from exploding. Making a scene. Hurting people they loved. There are, I confess, days I want to give up on him. Be done with the chaos. But then I hear her singing. Begging me to give him one more try.