“Mom, what are you still dreaming of doing, what big wish remains that you still want to do or accomplish, what passions haven’t you accomplished yet?” I ask eagerly. I watch the road in front of me as I anticipate hearing some amazing answer about road trips, mountains to see, people to meet, maybe even a wish for great grandchildren, or a trip to outer space. I always get giddy and excited when I ask people this question as I never know what delicious answer is coming next.
“I don’t know – I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to, I’m happy to just sit still.” She answers.
I don’t say a word. I’m deflated. This is not delicious – it is depressing. My brain is trying to process this, but honestly it can’t. Instead it’s thinking “What?! There must be something, something yet to look forward to, some goal not accomplished! Else you might as well just sit around and wait for death.” Ok – in reality a few of those thoughts were actually verbalized. The joy of mother daughter relationships – we can be asses to the ones we love. But I honestly should have known better, my mom wasn’t the adventurous one, she was the kind hearted one, the one that always put others in front of herself. She at the chicken neck because she ‘liked it’.
Maybe just maybe she didn’t really want to do any more. Even if that was the case, I still couldn’t understand it. My brain and body was agitated with this answer. And of course like most things in my life I started to turn inward and analyze this information. How did I end up so different – why do I fixate on constantly moving around and doing something…anything? I treat life like a short gift – wanting to fit everything in I can. But maybe at 77 years old – there’s really nothing more to fit in. Really?
Besides treating my mom to a vacation to a place she had always dreamed of coming to, one of my personal goals of this mother daughter road trip around Nova Scotia was to try to understand more of what parts of me were a result of my mom. I knew it wasn’t the sense of adventure or intense desire to do something different – those I clearly got from my dad. But I thought that maybe it was the passion that she passed on to me. However, in the end, I guess my realization was that I got my soft side from my mom. My mom is not and never will be controversial; she just tows the line and ensures everyone is happy.
I also realize that even though it seems to be fading with her age – she is the creative, artistic one. And I’m pretty positive some of that rubbed off on me. She used to paint, do craft projects, and draw. I still smile when I go home to their house and see her old paintings up on the wall. They aren’t necessarily works of art – but they are the only creative thing that anyone in my family has turned out. I always feel like such an outsider as I’m the only one in the family who leans towards the artistic side. It’s not easy to be the artistic beacon in a family of engineers and finance people.
I also used the time driving in Nova Scotia to simply dig into my mom’s life more. This is what I love about road trips – there’s really nothing else you can do but talk – and look out the window. And I love to talk and contemplate life, relationships, and passion – probably a bit too much!
We seldom even had the radio on. We talked about marriage, relationships, and her relationship and past trips she took with her dad and mom. We got into some interesting conversations about religion and sexuality – I accepted a while ago that we don’t see eye to eye on these things – but occasionally I like to go down that road and talk about them – until I get so frustrated that I can’t take it any longer. We had to agree to disagree – a respectful conversation – but both of us were not budging on our views. Yet I spent the next 15 minutes in silence pondering how we could feel do differently about things. We also talked about her past boyfriends in high school. I learned one broke up with her by sending her ring back in a box through the mail. I guess that’s the old fashioned version of my generation’s post-it note breakup, or the younger generation’s texting breakup. One thing my mom and I could agree upon for sure – all breakups pretty much suck.
She told me stories about her taking her parents on trips as they got older – some successful, some not so great. But as we talked about how she traveled with her parents, it made me feel that what we were doing – traveling together – was important to our relationship.
My favorite parts of this trip with my mother were introducing her to the nicer upscale travel experiences such as the Via Rail business class train ride, the dinner at Five Fisherman in Halifax, the rock star treatment at the Keltic Lodge on Cape Breton with decadent chocolate desserts, and the numerous B&B’s that treated us like queens. I actually laughed out loud when my mom emerged looking all proud in her white robe at our Lunenburg B&B. Pampering is not really a part of my mom’s normal life – but I think after this long, she deserves a robe and some chocolate.
However during those times in the car when silence took over – I couldn’t shake this disturbing feeling. The feeling of the future and what it holds for me – and my mom. The whole trip got me thinking a great deal about aging. Looking at my mom’s wrinkles reminds me that she’s older than I care to think and I know my time with her is limited. I can’t even begin to grasp this – it’s too heavy for my mind to lift. But I do know that this trip, was something that neither her nor I will ever forget. It is a gift to get along with your parents, and to have them healthy enough at this age to do this type of travel.
And of course, my mind meanders back to me, I think about my own aging and one terrifying thought takes over – I won’t have a daughter to push me or take me places as I get older. How will I push myself as I age? Like most things in my life, I will just have to wait and see what develops and just go on living pushing myself I guess. There are no answers in life, you just have to roll with it. I’m just going to have to trust that my passion and drive introduces me to people who will continue to be with me as I age. And if I’m lucky, maybe they’ll even bring me a robe and some chocolate.
Want more? Here’s a little video recap and interview I did with my mom at the end of the trip:
Disclosure: My mom and I were guests of Visit Nova Scotia during our road trip. However all of the opinions expressed here are my own (or my mom’s own). We did utilize their website and expertise to decide upon the destinations we wanted to see, ensuring that we were doing things that we were interested in.