60 Priceless Hours With Mom And yes, I’m counting
For mother’s day, I eschewed traditional gift ideas this year, and instead, insisted that my mother come with me to a world class destination spa for two days. I felt that achieving remission from stage 3 ovarian cancer at her age warranted spending special time together. She is 85 years old, and not very keen on leaving home:
I knew once she was on her way, it would all work out. I was glad she was able to drive herself to my house so we could travel in my car to the spa in Pennsylvania. Before she left her house, she called my sister in North Carolina and told her she wished she was going with her instead because sometimes she needs help, and I am “useless”. She was referring to the fact that I have a disability which is something she is still having an awful time getting used to twenty years later.
She arrived at my house at 1:00 on Wednesday and announced that she was “starving”. I had made up my mind that for the next 60 hours, I was going to do whatever Mom wanted. When she was done with lunch, I asked if there was anything else I could get for her. She replied, “An ice cream sundae.”
“We will stop for ice cream, Mom.”
Somehow we got her bag out of her car and into mine. It was too heavy for me to get by myself, so we both lifted it into the trunk.
By the time we both got in the car, I lost track of how many times she’d asked how long it takes to get there. In addition to having hearing loss, Mom isn’t the best listener. It is difficult for us to sit in the car for long stretches with our physical challenges.
In true motherly style, Mom asked if I had gas, and wanted to know if I knew how to use my GPS (in the car I’ve had for five years). I had filled my tank the day before in anticipation of this question.
I gave Mom a sort of orientation about where we were going since I had been there on 5 previous occasions. I explained that we could have breakfast and lunch in the bathrobes that would be supplied in our rooms, but would be required to wear clothing of some sort for dinner. Nothing fancy, just clothing.
Mom read every road sign we saw for me. She strolled down more than one memory lane on the way to Pennsylvania. Through the fresh Air Fund in New York City, she went to camp in Sussex, New Jersey as a child from Brooklyn.
We talked about whether we would visit my lake house after we left the spa on Friday. It’s about a 40 minute ride. She was concerned we might bother my estranged husband who lives there. I explained that he was not planning to be there until late Friday night. The last time Mom had been to the lake was July 4, 2017. It’s about a three hour trip from her house to the lake. We decided to play it by ear for Friday. I really wanted to bring Mom to the cabin. But, I was doing whatever she wanted. If she was going to worry about it too much, we could skip it. She ruled out staying over on Friday night because it’s too hard for her to sleep in “so many different placers.” I had thought it might be nice to extend her vacation a little, but it was going to be all about what she wanted.
We stopped at a familiar ice cream stop on the way to the spa for Mom’s ice cream sundae. She is very particular about her ice cream so Dairy Queen would not do. The Dairy Bar makes homemade ice cream, and luckily it met with Mom’s approval. We were still about 45 minutes from our destination and took advantage of the opportunity to stretch our legs before the last leg of our journey.
The final 45 minute ride was the most scenic, winding up into the mountains on curvy roads through the woods. We stopped at the security gate at the entrance to the spa. Mom was a little impressed they knew we were coming.
She got a little nervous when I parked in front near the valet parking people. “Do we have to take our bags?”
“No, Mom, they will be in our room before we even get there. They have this cool system. It’s like magic.”
We watched and directed the valet about which bags to take out of my trunk.
The first thing you see when you enter the building is a set of three very large crystal singing bowls set atop a carved, spiral wooden stand. I picked up the soft mallet and showed Mom how to strike the bowls gently to make them sing. The sound was a soothing signal to our bodies to calm down as we arrived.
We stopped at the front desk to check in where Mom made friends with the clerk immediately. She was directed to the ladies room while I registered.
I found Mom in the refreshment room down the hall helping herself to some tea. Even though she’d said she wanted to go to the room after visiting the ladies room, she was jumping right in to spa life instead. I was so happy to see her figuring out how it worked so quickly. She asked me if my sister had stolen tea bags from the supply when she was there with me on my first visit. The funny thing was my sister had said “Mom is going to have fun stealing those tea bags.” The fancy tea bags were a perk of staying at such a luxury destimation. We had a good chuckle, and a nice cup of tea and some kind of trifle with dark chocolate spoons.
Mom commented that our room was “far” down the hall as we walked. She loved the luxury appointed room with two queen beds. Our bags were sitting on the luggage racks.
I don’t remember how many times Mom had asked me if I was tired on the two hour drive. I wasn’t. I was so excited to be having this time with my mother and to be able to do what I could to give her a little getaway.
We looked over the schedule of events for the evening and the next day. There were very few activities that were suitable for us because Mom doesn’t drink which ruled out the wine tasting, and neither one of us are active so the hikes and fitness classes were out. All we had to do that evening was show up for dinner for our 6:00 PM reservation.
Mom had brought her bathing suit at my request after asking several times if there was water there. She had looked at the website months ago and had forgotten what it looked like. I explained that there were several hot tubs, a eucalyptus steam room, sauna and indoor pool. Her response was “Oh, I don’t know if I can go in the water.” We took a wait and see approach. We made light of all the activities we could never do like go mountain biking or go for a power walk.
Mom went into the bathroom to check it out. She took inventory of the supplies, reading them out to me as she went: “shower cap, emery board, soap, shoe polish kit, vanity kit.” Then she excitedly said, “They do have make up remover towelettes!” I was so relieved that disaster had been averted. I dimly remembered them being there on previous visits.
The meals at the spa were our big activities. The food was delectable, expertly prepared, flavorful and different than our usual fare at home. Of course, it was a luxury to be waited on and not have to clean up. We got an adorable photo taken of us at breakfast in our bathrobes, much like I had done when my sister had been there with me on my first visit.
We enjoyed relaxed, uninterrupted conversation. I shared a lot of stories about my personal life because I know Mom likes that. She likes offering her valuable two cents on everything, too. I was drinking in every minute of having my mother’s undivided time and attention. Since she had been sick, we’ve all recognized the fact that our time with her is not unlimited. This was sort of the point of this trip.
After breakfast on Thursday, our big focus was to be ready for our massage appointments at noon. Mom found a way to worry about what she had to wear to the appointment, as well as what I was wearing. I was going to have less of a traditional massage. I was having Thai yoga massage which requires you to wear loose fitting clothing. I wore workout clothes under my robe which sort of confused Mom. She was still in her nightgown and robe. She was a little concerned about what time lunch would be served until and if we would have time for it after our massages.
She was super impressed by the massage and loved every minute. We had plenty of time for lunch, still in our robes. In fact, Mom stayed in her nightgown that day until it was time to get dressed for dinner. I counted this as a win. I changed into my bathing suit to get in the hot tubs while Mom napped in a chair by the pool. She felt that getting into the water would be “too much work”. She noted that the pool was 4 and a half feet deep all the way around, and she is less than five feet tall. There was no lifeguard on duty, and I am “useless”. I didn’t take too much time in the water because it really was a bit like work after doing so much nothing all day.
We had another day to enjoy great meals, snacks and tea in the Garden Room, and a few lectures there as well. One was about nutrition, the other about sleep. We met the lecturer during the afternoon’s nutrition lecture and found her fascinating. She was from Israel, and was a holistic health practitioner, artist, and nutritionist. When we sat for the evening’s talk on sleep, it was just the three of us. It was like a private consultation, as well as a friendly visit. She knew where my lake house was, and was familiar with local popular eateries. My mother took the opportunity to share with her as I explained that my estranged husband lives in my lake house which complicates things that my husband left me “ because he likes to go hiking and I can’t hike anymore since I had a stroke.” Sure, it’s a bit oversimplified, but it conveys the gist of what happened. The speaker gave my mother the “Oh, that’s too bad” response she was looking for.
There was a rousing game of bingo after the evening’s lecture on sleep. I tried very hard to win, but failed.
We had the option to use the spa’s facilities after the noon check out the next day, but we agreed that getting in the water would definitely be too much work. We had made the most of our two days there, taking advantage of what we could. I snuck over to the front desk to check out when Mom was in the bathroom because I knew if she saw how much it cost, it would ruin it for her.
Our bags magically went from our room to my car and my car with more magic appeared at the door when we were ready to leave.
Mom ruled out staying over at the lake house, but wanted me to take her there to see all the changes over the past two years. On the 30 mile drive, she fretted about whether my husband would be there and if we would bother him. Also, she thought about what if his girlfriend was there when we arrived cooking dinner for him. I glibly replied that it would be cool for his girlfriend to meet his mother in law and it might be nice if she cooked us dinner. Mom was not amused. She admitted that she would not be able to be cordial under those circumstances. I had met his girlfriend and knew I could be cordial, if necessary.
It was a relief when we pulled into the cabin driveway to see no cars. I drove into the new garage to show Mom my husband’s new motorcycle. We went in the house and did a quick tour of the new furnishings.
I stopped for another ice cream sundae for Mom on our way back to my house.
We bumped into my estranged husband at my house when we arrived. Mom sat out on the deck with him and got all caught up.
She gave some consideration to staying over at my house before traveling home, but in the end waited for rush hour traffic to abate, then made the trip home by herself.
We had a two day celebration of being alive and well. I’m sure both of us had our patience tried some over the course of so much together time, but it was worth every minute. Life is so uncertain. Grab it while you can.