Love you forever.

My favourite children’s book of all time is “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch.  For those who aren’t familiar with the story, it’s about a mother and son at various stages in their life together.  It begins with the mother holding her infant son in her arms and rocking him while she sings “I’ll love you forever.  I’ll like you for always.  As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”  The mother continues to rock her son and sing to him throughout his life, sometimes without his knowledge (such as when she sneaks into his room to rock her teenage son as he sleeps).  She does this until she is just too old and too weak to do so any more.  That’s when the son takes over and rocks and sings to his mother.  The tradition continues as the son rocks his own infant daughter at the end of the book.  It’s about the circle of life and the importance that love plays in keeping that circle going round and round.

At this point in my life I am part of what is commonly referred to as “the sandwich generation”.  I find myself sandwiched between the needs of my maturing children and those of my aging mother.  As my relationship with my mother evolves, events arise that remind me of the circle of life and love that was so effectively described in Munsch’s book.  Earlier this week I went to visit my mother at the nursing home where she now resides.  It was a very warm evening so I asked Mom if she would like to go for a walk around the block.  Mom has lost the ability to walk in recent years and spends her days in her wheelchair and her bed.  Her reduced mental functioning (she suffers from dementia) coupled with her reduced mobility has necessitated her wearing adult diapers.  A walk around the block meant me pushing Mom around the block in her wheelchair.  We were about halfway around the block when I began to detect a distinct odour.  I realized Mom had had an “accident”.  We continued on, pausing every now and then so I could bend down and help Mom focus her attention on various points of interest…flower gardens, shrubs, window displays.  I was struck by our complete reversal of roles.  When I was a child my mother would take me for walks in my carriage.  On some of those strolls I probably soiled my diaper.  My mother would have drawn my attention to things she wanted me to see.  The main difference between then and now is who does what.

I get teased a fair bit about the strength of my memory.  I tend to remember all sorts of silly details.  I have many memories of my early childhood…memories that seem to become more meaningful as I get older.  I remember what my baby carriage looked like…it was light blue with a soft hood and sides,  a chrome frame and a ridged white rubber grip on the handle with.  I don’t remember riding in it but I do remember when my mother gave it to the family across the street.  I would have been about three years old at the time.  I marched right over to their house (even though I was not supposed to cross the street on my own) and found the carriage in their garden shed.  I then proceeded to push it back home telling anyone who questioned me, “It’s mine!”

I also remember distinctly the day this picture was taken.  According to the date on the back of the picture, it was the spring of 1963.  I was four years old.  We had gone with my Aunt Veronica (Mom didn’t drive) to Leith, a village on the shore of Georgian Bay near my hometown and a favourite destination of Mom’s.  The winter ice had just recently broken up.  It was a fairly warm spring day but the wind off the water was very cold.  I believe the reason I remember the day so clearly was because it was the first time that year I had been allowed to wear my “spring boots”.  They were red plastic and they fit over my shoes.  They were so much nicer than the brown galoshes I had worn all winter.  I remember how I splashed in the shallows along the shore, admiring how the water made my lovely red boots shine.  Mom, ever protective, followed me as I moved over the slippery rocks, always ready to catch me should I fall.

As I grew, like most children I began to assert my individualism.  One day my mother asked me to do something and I refused.  I must have made a smart remark of some kind because my mother slapped my face.  At that time (the mid-1960’s) that was a pretty standard punishment for “talking back” to your mother…at least it was in my neighbourhood.  With that slap I felt the bottom drop out of my world.  I loved my mother more than I loved anyone else in the world.  That slap told me I had hurt her…and she was the last person I wanted to hurt.  I ran and hid under my bed for a while, crying inconsolably.  Mom left me to figure things out for myself.  It didn’t take me long to realize that the only way I could fix things was to apologize for my behaviour.  I found my mother hanging the wash on the clothesline in our basement (we didn’t have a dryer and in the winter you couldn’t hang the clothes outside or they might freeze and break!).  I apologized and then I hugged her as tightly as I could.  I couldn’t seem to hug her tightly enough.  I squeezed her with all my strength.   I loved her with my whole heart.  That feeling of intense love returned to me when I held my own children.  It returned to me earlier this week as I bent to point out newly planted flowers to my mother.

I suppose all I’m really trying to say is what Robert Munsch said so eloquently in his children’s book…”I’ll love your forever.  I’ll like you for always.  As long as I’m living your baby I’ll be.”  Love you Mom.

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