I think the most important thing I've learned so far on this trip is that the role I currently play for my mother -- caretaker -- is the correct role for me to be playing, now that she is almost 80.
The problem is this was a role she was subconsciously shoving at me when I was a child and it didn't fit.
I'm not just making this up I've had professionals tell me this. When they did it was a relief to hear it. I wasn't crazy. Stuff happening when I was a kid wasn't normal.
So now I'm 47 and she is 79 and it is right that I would assist her and make sure she gets where she needs to be and see who she needs to see.
I also learned, or remembered, that I have family that I connect with.
I was hoping my favorite cousin, who is from my mom's side (cousin who passed away was on my dad's side), would be there. He was friends with the cousin I lost (are you tired of the word cousin). He came up behind me and put his arm around me and the first thing I thought was, "there is no one here who has the right to touch me this way" which was immediately followed by the thought, "J!!!!!" and it was!
Honestly I almost burst into tears. I was so RELIEVED to see him and his sister W! I wanted more time with them, but as he wisely said, "I'll see you on Facebook." See, he gets me.
Mom got to see tons of people she hadn't seen in years and she is pleased about that, although she won't come out and admit that coming on this trip is 100 percent the right thing to have done. Honestly, on the way to the funeral yesterday she was questioning if we should be here.
Another thing I am learning on this trip is to KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT. That it doesn't matter. That she is not going to understand how I feel, that my experience is not really something she wants to know and understand. What she wants is for my experience to be what she thinks my experience should be. And that's not just these three days. That's the last 47 years. That's religion and how I feel about my father and my brother and what happens when we die and it goes on and and on and on. I already knew this, but in years past I would try and argue.
As I teenager I would actually try to explain to her my feelings and beliefs. I remember a conversation about fiction because I desperately wanted to share with someone an experience I had had with a book (Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin). I still remember sitting on the couch telling her about the book and that it turned into a conversation about how fiction was bad and wrong and useless.
Those are some of the things I have learned. I am very glad I am here. I am glad I saw J and W. I met a cousin who I am friends with on FB and who I didn't know was my cousin. I know. Loser.
Now we are off to Perkins then we're hitting the road for four hours. You know those fictional stories where people travel geographically and also through time (yes, this happens in Winter's Tale)? I'm doing that today. Taking a trip I took a zillion times as a kid. Sitting in the backseat for hours, staring at the fields. No iPad, radio, playlists or streaming video. Just time.
But this time I'm driving.