Anchored With Love

My husband led the pack, and I followed. My younger brother was sandwiched between us and our parents. We hugged the bike path that ran parallel with traffic. The ocean flowed on the left; closed ice-cream shops and bakeries with candy-colored, shake-shingled roofs were on our right.

We passed jogging teenage girls with bouncing ponytails and tight Lycra pants that shimmered like the asphalt undulating beneath our tires. I tilted my face to the bronze sun and felt freckles coalesce on my cheeks. Seagulls culled the air with their white and gray wings. The waves’ crashing rhythm relaxed me, even as I pulled on the handlebars, pushed on the pedals, and rose high on the bicycle seat.

Though off-season, traffic was heavy. Maintenance trucks with pool nets suspended on poles swooshed past us. My one-year-old daughter—in a chair attached to the back of my husband’s bike—tore off her helmet. My husband and I braked, and I grabbed the yellow foam piece that resembled an upside down turtle shell splayed on the sidewalk. My brother and parents stopped behind us. I secured the helmet’s strap beneath my daughter’s sweet chin and kicked up my stand. I was preparing to pedal when I heard my mother cry out.

I turned just in time to see her bike topple. She was parked on an incline and couldn’t get her hands out fast enough to break her fall. Her face broke it instead. Her shoulder-length blond hair swept forward, shielding her features and pain. But I could imagine everything.

I threw my bike at the same time I jumped off of it. I ran and tried to untangle my mother from the bike: the handlebars reflecting silver, her sneaker strings hanging limp. The layers of my mother’s hair swept back, and I could see her top lip was peeled and dripping.

“Do I have teeth?” she asked, licking blood. Somehow her sunglasses were still in place, and I wondered if the lenses hid tears. My mother had a C-section at forty-one, but I have never seen her cry from physical pain.

I nodded, my mouth too dry to speak.

“There’s grit in there,” she said.

My father—green eyes aglow with worry—passed her his water bottle. She took a swig, swished it like mouth wash, and spat.

When we got back to the beach house, I told everyone I was going for a walk. I followed the road to the end of the nautical-themed neighborhood. I trespassed what I hoped was a deserted rental property and slid down its slight dune to the edge of the sand. Three private docks jutted out over the choppy water. The boards composing them were weathered: a pewter a shade paler than the sea.

I stared out over that great, unfathomable expanse and felt both anchored and weightless. My parents are growing older. I am growing older; though as a firsttime parent, I am the same age they were when they became parents themselves.

I had trembled from the seismic understanding of our own mortality as I leaned over the toppled bicycle and helped my mother to her feet. It was a simple action that mirrored what she had done for me and my brothers countless times: bandaging our bloodied wounds by reassuring us that everything was all right.

Did her fall portend that the maternal wheel would soon turn? That the comforter would soon need comforted? Would it happen before my children are able to support themselves?

My throat blocked, my eyes stinging with the same salt that continually changes the sea’s water to brine. I may be a mother, but I need a mother, too.

“You okay?”

I turned and saw the woman who birthed me—dimpled smile shining beneath her dark sunglasses, her top lip strawberry-scuffed.

“I can leave you alone if you want,” she said.

“No—” I swallowed. “Stay.”

She nodded and moved closer. Together, we stood on the sandy rim that overlooked the hourglass world.

“You almost killed yourself.” My laughter choked.

“I’m fine,” my mother soothed. “I promise, I’m fine.”

I took off my sunglasses. Seeing my face, she extended her arms. I then held my mother and knew I was her child still.

When was the first time you realized your parents were growing older? How did you feel?

Image credit: http://images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/221/cache/outer-banks-road-trip-1_22147_600x450.jpg


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Comments

  1. This brought tears to my eyes — you did a great job of describing the mother and the daughter side, too. It’s true, as moms, no matter what our age (or our child’s), we want to make sure we’re there for our daughters, but we also want our daughters there for us. Beautiful piece!

  2. Thank you, Julia. Writing this helped me understand what I was exactly feeling and the deep love I have for my parents. The gift just keeps giving. I am so blessed to have them both. I’m sure your daughter feels the same about you.

  3. “I may be a mother but I need a mother too.” This got to me.

    What a beautiful circle of life story. I feel enriched just having read your words. I’ll be calling my out-of-state mom in the morning and sharing it with her. Thank you.

  4. You describe your mother’s spill so vividly, Jolina, I felt your fear for her, and her pain. The tipping point where a mother needs nurture and a daughter is able to give it is a blessed place. But it’s true, we still want to be comforted by our mothers too!
    I love that my daughter is an adult now, and we are close friends. She says I know her as no one else does, and I always turn to her when I need a really understanding, nonjudgmental ear. I rest in the knowledge she will be there for me when I am too old to take care of myself. She sometimes made me want to tear my hair out with worry as a teen, but now she’s my dearest friend.

    • That is so incredibly beautiful, Cynthia, that your daughter is your dearest friend. The birth of my daughter is really what solidified the bond with my mother that went beyond mother/daughter relationship to the relationship of friends. I’m certainly grateful for it!

  5. Wow, this brought tears to my eyes, too. The knowledge that my parents are growing older is something that only dawned on me recently, and continues to dawn on me, daily. They had me quite young, so they’re still very active and vibrant…I don’t see much frailty in them in a physical sense, but in an emotional one, and that’s been difficult to deal with at times, not because I don’t want to be there for them, but because I always saw them as invincible.

    Still, it’s very beautiful to enter this new phase of our relationship, when I realize that just by listening and trying to understand them, I can bring them comfort. It’s the very least I can do after all they’ve done for me. That’s another thing that I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older: I can never in the rest of my days adequately express my gratitude for all the sacrifices they’ve made for me and my sister. It’s sad that as kids and teenagers we’re unable to see it, and that as adults we see it so clearly but can never thank them enough.

    • You put that so eloquently, Natalia, and I can feel your love for your family. Your parents are so blessed to have such a kind-hearted daughter. Xx

  6. Oh, this is just beautifully written. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this.

  7. Beautiful, beautiful. tearing up, too. we’re a bunch of cry babies over here. ;)

  8. Such a beautiful post. And it hits close to home. My parents are in their 70s. They no longer drive at night and have ceased some of their activities. I worry about them.

  9. It is hard to watch our parents growing older. I know it must touch them, though, to see that they are so incredibly loved.

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