The apartment was new. And it was clean. Much cleaner than our house. All my mother had to do was sign her name and we were moving in. But before she did that there was something else she wanted to do. She wanted to show me around the new place. She wanted to see what I thought.
Imagine Simon Cowell listening to Creed and Nickelback at the same time. That’s how critical I was. The rooms weren’t laid out right. The bathrooms were too small. And then there was the front door. The front door might as well have not even been there. There was just one little button on the doorknob to lock us in away from any evildoers wishing to do us harm.
“That looks real safe,” I said in my infinite teenage wisdom.
At first, my mother didn’t reply. She just looked at me. It was one of those looks that hurt much worse than any spanking because I could tell that she was the one who was hurt. Finally, she quietly responded.
“You know, I’m doing the best that I can here.”
I would have rather been beaten.
I was an eye roller. It seemed like every command my mother gave me served no other purpose than to get in my way. Most of the time I followed through with those commands. I obeyed. I was a good boy.
But I didn’t obey with the right heart. I didn’t honor my mother. I wasn’t such a good boy after all.
We eventually moved out of that apartment. It was in our next apartment where my mother found out that she was sick.
It was in the several other places that we lived afterwards where she would wake up screaming in the middle of the night because she was losing control of most of the muscles in her body. And it was in those places that her mind slowly started to go.
My aunt and my sister did the real work of caring for her. I tried my best. I drove her to the doctor occasionally. I carried her to her bed. I spent a few nights next to her in the hospital. And I tried to do it without rolling my eyes. I was learning how to honor my mother.
My wife and I were packing up our house one day. We weren’t moving. We were just going on vacation. Were. We were going on vacation.
My sister called and told me to get down to see my mom as fast as I could. By this time, my mom was living in a nursing home in middle Georgia. My wife and I sped to see her. We were about 20 minutes away when we got the call. She died.
I can’t remember the last words I said to her. But I’m glad that it wasn’t some critical comment about the house she did her best to provide for me.
A lot has been written and said about obedience. And that’s a good thing. But obedience is nothing more than camouflaged rebellion if it is not accompanied by honor. There will come a time when we no longer have to obey our parents. After my mom’s sickness got really bad and I was living on my own, she would call me and say some of the craziest things. I don’t know if it was the medicine or the disease but something was messing with her mind. She would tell me to do things that were impossible to obey.
I think that’s probably one of the toughest stages in life. The stage where you have to be the parent to your parent. The stage where you no longer have to obey. Where all you can do is honor.
Maybe I’m just getting too old. Or maybe some kids today really are getting bolder in how they talk to their parents. A while back I heard a kid talking to her mom like people talk about the bad guys on pro wrestling. And she was rolling her eyes. Just like I did.
I thought about my attitude towards my mother that day back in our new apartment. My mind jumped to my frantic drive to a middle Georgia nursing home only to miss saying goodbye to my mother by 20 minutes. I thought about how glad I was that, even though I didn’t get to say goodbye the way I wanted, at least we ended on good terms. Real good terms.
I interrupted that girl. I told her to watch the way that she talked to her mother because she never knew when her last goodbye would be. I hope it helped.
No matter how old you are, watch the way that you talk to and about your mom and dad. Last words don’t care about your calendar. You never know what or when those last words will be. But there is one thing that you can do between now and then, even if you happen to be passed the point of obeying.
Honor your father and mother.
You’ll be glad you did.