2000 miles separates me from my roots in Central Pennsylvania. I’m from State College, also known as Happy Valley, the home of Penn State University. My parents, both originally from rural PA, met while at Penn State, loved it, and stayed. State College has definitely grown over the years, but it has maintained a small town feel and it will always have a piece of my heart.
I’ve been thinking a lot about home. My family. My parents. My beloved small town roots. My three siblings, Doug, David and Diana, (yeah I know… we’re all D’s) with short periods living away, have each established their families in State College. A fact I am reminded of often. And evidence of my somewhat contrary nature.
I am thankful for my very close family. When Doug was interviewing for churches, I had one requirement. I insisted a move had to be within a days drive from home. When we traveled to Peoria, Illinois, 12 hours from State College, for Doug’s final interview, I remember saying, “it had better be perfect!” He was obviously pushing the day’s drive condition. A drive we would make often.
My dear parents BOTH suffer from Parkinson’s. It is a cruel, degenerative disease. They do get excellent care at Foxdale, an assisted living facility. And my siblings each help out so much. But, the disease is relentless and will have its way, even for those with the strongest constitutions. Being far, during this season of their declining health has become especially difficult. Wanting to do my part, how can I help? Of course I can pray. And I do. But I’ve also made the effort to call my mother almost daily.
I have discovered, that a phone call between two people each walking through her own valley can take on a life of its own. This is true especially when they share the same “I want to fix it” DNA. Empathy scores a ten. Ability to fix the other’s circumstances a big fat zero. In defeat, it becomes all too easy to just commiserate. Our phone conversations felt heavy, I suspect for both of us, and not like the “help” for which they were intended.
Strolling the aisles of Barnes & Noble, not looking for anything in particular, I came upon this book.
BRILLIANT! This inexpensive journal, has transformed our conversations. (I highly recommend you go through the book WITH your mother instead of just giving it to her to fill out alone!) I’ve learned important stuff. Who knew, that my mother’s endearing nickname from her brother was Rita, the pinky van stinky. And poor George Magoo — Rita ditched him at her senior dance by climbing out the bathroom window and running home.
More than just a place to record precious memory lane information, the book has become the tool God is using to meet heartfelt needs for each of us. Mother seems to feel a sense of purpose sharing important information to preserve her legacy. I am enjoying the time, an escape from my present life, and end the conversation knowing my mother better and loving her even more.
What a blessing! How cool is it, that God gifted me with phone call duty. Mother and I, both hurtin’ campers, are blessing one another. And just like that, I experience His promise in Genesis 12:2. You, too can be blessed to be a blessing. It is as if God says, “right back at you, faithful servant!”
Bless someone today.
If you’re lucky enough to still have a parent alive, ask them questions about their past. Perhaps you have a beloved Aunt or a sweet neighbor. See if you don’t experience the boomerang effect! I would love to hear about it.
What wonderful experiences you are having with your Mother.
Being a genealogist, and a basically curious person, I remember talking with my grandparents about their stories. I have done the same with my Mom. Pictures can be valuable as memory joggers, too. I feel blessed to know my family better and treasure the pictures, letters, stories, etc.
Personal history does enrich us. I never took the time to appreciate it til recently. Thanks for your comment.
Susan Zimmerman says
What valuable information this post has shared. Unfortunately, my mother has passed, and there are many unanswered questions. However, I do have a sister, and we talk often trying to jog each other’s memories. Family is important. Stay in touch.
Yes indeed Mrs. Z.
Tommy Zimmerman says
I have good memories of my mother. She was a perfectionist that has its good points and challenges. I hope I have the good ones. We have fond memories of your parents and brothers.
Mr. Z, Thanks for chiming in. The feelings are mutual.
I gave my dad one of those journals about 10 years ago. He completed the whole thing in less than a month and gave it back to me. I treasure it so much, especially as he’s getting older and his memory is starting to falter. What a lovely gift, though, to be able to get the questions answered in real time!
I bet that is a treasure! I bet it was a treasure for him too!
Kathy Day says
I enjoyed your post today. I laughed so hard when I read that Rita ditched George Magoo at her senior dance by climbing out the window and walking home. It is such fun when our mother’s surprise us.
Ha! Yes, it was so fun to hear her tell me about it.
What a wonderful idea! Thank you Debbie. I will do this with my mother to remind her of the wonderful life she has lived and not just the life she is living today!
Gonna do it! Hope it is something that will help mom to see herself in a better way!
You taking the time will be meaningful, I’m sure. Debbie
Sandy Drake says
So excited to join!
Yay… Finally. Debbie