Monday, April 24, 2017


When I got to the Post Office today, a car pulled into the space next to me.  Obviously the woman was in a hurry because she got out quickly as she could so as to be first in line at the window.  I was amused because she needn't have worried that I'd cut ahead; I'm just not a "head of the line" sort of person.  And I could have told her that if she had been polite enough to turn round but she kept her back to me the entire time because she was very busy with her phone. 

I had noticed that she wasn't alone either--given the resemblance, it seems fair to assume that the other person in the car was her daughter; she was also very busy with her phone and stayed in the car to continue while mom went into the PO.

After I finished mailing my shipments, I noticed that the woman and her daughter were still there in the car next to mine, both of them still texting at a furious pace and completely oblivious to one another.  They were still at it when I backed out of my space and pulled away. 

And I thought how terribly sad that was.

When my mother and I were about the same age as that mother and daughter, I was applying for junior college.  Since the drive was a long one (about 45 minutes), my mother went along with me.  Long drives were a perfect time to talk, of course.  The car became a sort of confessional that day because on that long drive, Mother told me a story that made her cry. 

She was, she said, deeply ashamed about a secret that only her mother and her siblings knew.  There was a lie that was eating her from the inside out.  She had lied to my father, my stepfather, my sister.  She had lied on every job application she had ever had.  She needed to talk about it.  She knew she could trust me (her youngest child) not to judge her and to help her know what to do.   The simple fact of the matter was that my mother had never graduated from high school, although she pretended that she had.

Mother had rheumatic fever during her sophomore year, so she had missed months of school.    But when she expressed a desire to return to her education, her father said very dismissively that she should not bother because females didn't need an education; and her mother agreed with him.  So Mother gave up.  She had loved school but couldn't fight her parents, so she went and got the first of many jobs where she lied about having graduated.

Maybe it was my education that brought her to the crisis point.  But something in her finally gave way.  And she listened seriously to what I told her:  We cannot go backward.  We have to do what we can now.  I suggested that she get her GED (something she had never heard of before), and I told her to come clean with my stepfather.  And I said that college wasn't only for the young.  She joined me that day in meeting with the college recruiter because she signed up to take classes, too, while she was also working on getting that long-delayed diploma.  The very-understanding college recruiter also told her that the only thing to be ashamed of was not doing something to make a change.  My mother became a new self that day.

For two years, we made that long 45-minute drive together five days a week--45 minutes to the college, and 45 minutes back home.  We also had some classes together.  My mother loved taking those classes, and she was so proud that her 3.9 grade point average was just slightly higher than mine.  And she was prouder still when first her GED was completed and then her two-year Associates degree.

My relationship with my mother was never an easy one but we consciously worked hard at understanding one another.  She trusted my judgment.  And I was always impressed by her incisive intelligence.  We made a good team.  People at school joked that we were "Peat and Re-Peat" because they thought it amusing that a mother and daughter could choose to be so close. 

Those two years were precious, most particularly the long hours in the car when we discussed anything and everything under the sun.  I knew who my mother was as a person.  I valued her as a friend.  And I truly thank God that there were no cell phones to get in the middle of that--that there was nothing standing in the way of us building a stronger and more understanding relationship with one another during those daily drives.

That is why I felt deeply sorry for that mother and daughter at the Post Office today who were building relationships only with their phones.  It made me cry.

Put down that phone.
Spend time with those you value.
Life is good.
It is also very, very short.

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