I’m 29, unemployed and spending Saturday night watching “Twenty-Seven Dresses” with my parents in a two bedroom apartment that the three of us share. That could be the opening line of a drugstore novel, but this is my non-fictional life. In March I gave two weeks notice at my job of four years, said many tearful goodbyes and left Pennsylvania. There were a few places that I could have gone to live, or I could have traveled around for a while. Instead, I packed up and moved across the country again, this time to Arizona, and into a small apartment with my parents.
I haven’t lived with mom and dad since I left for college twelve years ago. I wondered what it would be like to live with them again. Starting life from scratch in four different cities has shaped me into a very independent person. I’m used to living on my own with things just the way I like them. I wondered if I, or they, would have trouble adjusting to living together again – three adults, one bathroom, stubbornness, quirks and preferences all stuffed into 840 square feet.
Three and a half weeks into our new arrangement and I’d rank this an A+ experience. Why in the world was I concerned? These are the people who not only enjoy my company, they love me unconditionally. Through countless points on my life map, my parents have given me true consideration, honesty, wisdom and support. They may not always fully understand or agree with me, but at the end of the day, full understanding and agreement seem unnecessary fringe benefits to the core of life, which is love.
Pam and Kim have given me an abundance of love. Today we took a mini road-trip to the mountains and we saw a man rinsing out a car seat liner at a rest area because his daughter had “an accident.” My parents chuckled and reminisced about potty training me. Apparently I loved to wash my hands so I would ask to go to the bathroom everywhere we went. That must have taken a lot of patience. Mom and dad loved me enough to let me move from Ohio to California for college; they never hold me back from any adventure, even when it takes me far from them. When I totaled their car and called home sore and distraught, dad’s only concerns were for my safety. There is a ton of love in our relationship, but it doesn’t always have a warm fuzzy feeling.
When I had my first loose tooth, mom tackled me to the living room floor and held me down for fifteen minutes trying desperately to get her fingers in my mouth. She was strong and firm. I fought back with stubbornness fueled by terror. I wouldn’t open my mouth to any of her requests, commands, or force. Finally she let me go and told me she was going to the grocery store and that I better have that tooth pulled out by the time she got back or I would be opening my mouth. The deal was struck with the close of the garage door and I ran to the bathroom mirror. Over the next half hour, I slowly pushed the tooth back and forth, only far enough to touch the edge of pain. As the time ticked down my desperation and wiggling grew. I got the tooth out before mom got back, thankfully, but I had no pride in winning our battle of wills. Mom would have hurt me when she yanked the tooth, but her way would have been less physically and emotionally painful than my self-inflicted agony. Instead of forcing me to her will, she stepped back and gave me space which allowed me to (eventually) learn an important lesson.
The people we love hurt us. We hurt the people we love. But there are no true relationships without pain and hurt. Love means recognizing the good intentions of others and sometimes you have to look really hard to see love. It may be the cause or result, or both, of pain. Acceptance, challenge, support, difficulty – all these things can be love. I could probably write a book about what I have learned about love and much of the heart of that book would be stories about my parents. On this Mother’s Day weekend, I’m happy that I made a home with my parents again. The love here is good.