Brave New Girl


“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”Abraham Lincoln

Life as I know it, is about to change.

As I write this, my 79-year-old mother is on a flight to Phoenix to come live with me. She’s worked tirelessly these past few months to get ready. The move involved not only culling and letting go of most of her belongings, but also euthanizing her 22-year-old cat, Zap. (Zap was failing in her final days, but I know my mom would have preferred that she decide when to exit.) The preparation has been brutal and illuminating. I learned a lot about my mother through this process: about her resolve, her strength, her grit. I learned how boundlessly brave she is.

I also learned a lot about myself.

I made a space for her, cleaned out and moved my office, cleaned out the extra bathroom and rearranged the house to (with luck) accommodate the few pieces of furniture she’s bringing with her. I did this without a moment’s hesitation, saying ‘yes’ when she called and said her current situation had become untenable and she needed to move. (I’ve been offering this option for quite some time now — but my mother wanted to stay put for the grand kids.)

What changed?

I think she realized that where she was living was toxic, and if she didn’t leave there, she would not live much longer.

It’s now or never.

So, even though the responsibility this entails is humbling (and pretty scary), we are moving forward. It’s moving day. She’s on her way.

I wonder if I have everything ready, even though I know I do.

I wonder if I could have done more for her, even though I did everything I could.

The child in me bristles in fear at the thought of taking this on, but the adult is ready, willing, able.

I’ve long wanted my mom to come down and live with me, if for no other reason than to offer her the chance to live someplace peaceful, where she is welcome and wanted.

She’s spent the past eight years living in a house where she was treated like a squatter — even though she’d paid a substantial sum to live there, ostensibly for the remainder of her life.

While there, she nearly died three times, due to neglect.

“As mothers and daughters, we are connected with one another. My mother is the bones of my spine, keeping me straight and true. She is my blood, making sure it runs rich and strong. She is the beating of my heart. I cannot now imagine a life without her.”Kristin Hannah, Summer Island

So, it’s time do something else.

For all of my life, I’ve been the type of person who embarked on adventures impulsively. I flew to London because I wanted to meet Elton John (and I did). I moved to NYC to chase my singing and songwriting dreams. I moved to Los Angeles to learn to write. When opportunities arose, I grabbed them, whether doing so made sense or not.

At times, I’ve lamented my mis-adventurous nature. But generally that happened only after I’d already left the safety of solid ground.

“Shiiiiitttt,” I’d scream, as the air rushed past me, and I fell headlong into this or that set of muddy brambles at the side of the road.

Bruised and bloodied, I would brush myself off and occasionally wonder if such madcap activities were a good idea.

Oops, I did it again…

Because I leap first and look later, maybe I should have paused when making this choice.

However, I had no doubts about doing this.

This is the right thing to do. This is the only choice.

“A good mother is irreplaceable.”Adriana Trigiani

My mother. My heart. 

So, my mom will stay with me for the rest of her life. She will have a home surrounded by the desert where she was born. She will have a circle of animal people to keep her company while I work.

My mother’s still in relatively good health and is quite spry for someone nearing 80. It’s time for her to have adventures.

I look forward to seeing what sort of creative ideas bloom for her, as she sits in the quiet of this house, watching grackles and song sparrows and desert wrens drink and bathe in the back yard.

I look forward to collaborating with her on some of those creative projects.

What I know for sure…

This is a healing house. This is a house of solace, of sanctuary, of retreat.

Now, we will share this space: As friends. As confidants. As artists. As collaborators.

We will navigate the coming years as mother and daughter, even if our roles eventually reverse.

Perhaps I will learn some of her secrets and she will learn some of mine.

This is a big day.

Today, a new life begins.

© 2014  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

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9 thoughts on “Brave New Girl

  1. You are an Angel sent from Heaven. To be there for the one who raised you, loved you and in spite of everything good or bad was there for you. She did for you what it is time for you to do for her;”The Best You Can”! You will do your best and just like she must have felt during difficult times bringing you up it was the first time she had a 16 year old, a17 year old, etc. And, now it will be the first for you. Take it slow, think before you speak and love with all your heart!

    1. Thank you, Linda! I appreciate all the encouragement I can get right now. It is an honor to do this for her. I would have it no other way.

  2. I wish you all the best. I took in both my parents. One day at the doctor with my father, another woman there with her father pulled me aside and gave me great words of wisdom: take time and space for youself, especially when you don’t see that you need them. My situation spiraled into a nighmare I barely made it out of, but it seems by your writing that your mother is entering your world with great respect for you and your life. Blessings to you both!

    1. Thanks, Sarah. It is a new place for both of us, but I feel certain we will navigate things as best we can. I appreciate the advice. As someone with a great need for solitude, I guard my down time carefully. I will have to be as balanced as I can be going forward.

  3. My dad lived with me after his 3rd heart attack. I am happy he lived with me and my son. My son was 5 years old and they had many fun days just spending time together. When I was diagnosed with cancer, my son who was now 37, dropped everything to come live with me and take care of me for 6 months… that’s when we got the “all clear.” He knows I am always there for him as well.

    I am sure you and your mom will do fine. As for your need for solitude…that’s what doors are for, so you can close them when you need “me time.”

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