Monday, January 16, 2012
The Right Words at the Right Time
Celia’s mother, with whom she and Rob plan to buy a house, just announced that she was laid off from her job.
“I’m such a burden to you,” Mom said, putting her face in her hands as she began to cry. “Why in the world do you want to live with me?”
The chronic hopelessness that had reigned over Celia’s childhood home (a function of Dad’s drinking and Mom’s inclination to depression) suddenly overwhelmed the kitchen of the home that she and Rob shared. This home was theirs, and Celia refused to allow hopelessness to rule here. She glanced up at Rob, who did not look hopeless – he looked impatient. As their eyes met, Celia could tell that they were in agreement that Rob would handle this.
“I’m sorry you were laid off, Mom,” Rob said. “I know you were hoping this would be a permanent job.” Celia was impressed that he sounded sympathetic without getting caught up in the emotionality. That was Celia’s typical pattern – she would have immediately tried to convince her mother that she wasn’t a burden.
Celia knew that part of the reason why living with her mother was going to work out financially is that neither she nor Rob expected her mother to contribute to the overhead expenses. She would need money for her own expenses, but other than that they would support her in exchange for childcare, they presumed; they had not yet discussed that. But Celia’s mother was a relatively young woman, only in her early fifties. She needed a job so she would have something that was hers. Celia knew that to make Rob and Celia’s family the center of her life, when she would already be living with them, would be a huge mistake.
Mom’s weeping began to slow.
“We want to live with you because we love you,” Rob continued, “and we’re going to need your help with the baby. It’s great that you now have a couple of weeks to get the house packed up. That way when escrow closes you’ll be ready!”
“You mean you still want to live with me?” Mom said, looking up.
“Of course we do,” Celia chimed in, and it hit her in that moment, that her mother had spent her whole life earning the care of the people in her life: her own parents and Celia’s father. Love had always been conditional. It was astonishing to her that someone might want her just for her.
Mom stood up. “I’m going to do that. I’m going to go home, make short work of the packing, and get back here and find another job. I won’t be a burden to you.”
She kissed and hugged Celia, then kissed and hugged Rob, and went into the other room. They could hear her dragging her suitcase out of the closet as they looked at one another.
“That’s it,” Celia said, quietly, so Mom wouldn’t hear. “Mom believes she’s worth something because we love her. That’s motivating her to do something with her life.” She leaned over the table and kissed Rob. “Thank you.”
What happens next?