I’ll admit it. As much as I want to think of myself as a saint in taking in my 81-year-old mother for an extended stay, the only saint name that might have been endowed on me one day this week was Saint Oscar. This saint is a clone of the Sesame Street curmudgeon, Oscar the Grouch.
Yes, after only a week together, Mom and I had an emotional meltdown. Or to describe it more accurately, I did.
It all occurred over a potluck supper.
My hope had been to take Mom to a potluck supper organized by the Midcoast Community Chorus. Like many others, I had joined the group not only to sing but also to make new friends. Because – much to the credit of choral director Mimi Bornstein – the group’s weekly rehearsals are such exciting learning experiences, most weeks we mostly sing our hearts out before each of us climbs into a car and heads homeward. But once a month, we have the opportunity to socialize during potluck suppers.
I thought Mom would enjoy attending one of these suppers, and that she would be wowed by attending the choral rehearsal afterward. But on the night in question, I was delayed at work and then had to make an urgent phone call when I arrived home. Until this call was attended to, there was no hope of going out to share food with new friends.
When I arrived home, late and tense through no fault of Mom’s, I hastened to make my phone call only to find that because Mom had not shut off the phone after receiving a call, the battery had drained and the system was temporarily useless. Waiting for the phone to recharge, we had to skip the potluck supper.
In frustration, I raised my voice and chided Mom. The minute I did this, I felt terrible. After all, it was absolutely understandable that she was not familiar with the phone’s dial pad. But despite my remorse, I nevertheless went on to complain aloud about missing the opportunity to introduce Mom to the chorus and to pursue making friends.
Mom immediately said, “You can go to the supper yourself. I don’t mind eating later, when you come home.”
When I said she would be hungry waiting so long to eat, she replied, “It might be an interesting feeling to be hungry.” She said this without a trace of irony or sarcasm. She pronounced this in the voice that had comforted me throughout my life.
Looking at my mom, who was dependent on me for companionship, I realized how gracious she was, and what a good mother she was to encourage me to join my new friends, even if it would plunge her into another few hours of alone time.
I threw my arms around Mom and apologized. I said, “I have been such a grouch! That one remark is worth a dozen potluck suppers. I’m afraid I’m not going to let you try out feeling hungry.”
I scrambled a few eggs, popped some bread into the toaster, and settled in for a modest meal with Mom. Sure, we missed the potluck supper. And yes, I lost the opportunity to bond with my fellow choristers.
But I gained some things that are far more valuable – not just my mom’s companionship, but my own self-respect.