Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mother's Day II

Gladys always remembers to call me on my birthday. That was one of the reasons why, when asked where I wanted to go for my birthday weekend, I chose Florida.

But mostly, it just seemed like the right thing to do. It's been about five years since Gladys has been to Atlanta for a visit and, at 82, we're not sure when she'll be back again. And lately when we've called to check in with her, she's been sounding lonely and a little depressed.

At least it seemed that way to us as she'd answer the phone. Once she heard our voice, she'd perk right up and become the Gladys we know and love again. Full of laughter and sunshine. JB and I haven't been able to understand why, at this point in this beautiful woman's life, her children rarely speak to her.

I met Gladys close to fifteen years ago, shortly after the beginning of my relationship with JB. She was the mother of JB's ex, Rod. She still is. As weird as that may sound, becoming friends with your partner's ex's mom, I don't remember it feeling weird. Gladys was just one of the gang, the cherished elder of our urban tribe.

With my ailing mother so far away, I admired Rod's relationship with his mother, and maybe I was a little envious. And when JB and I both lost our mothers in 2003, we sort of adopted Gladys as our surrogate Mom. And we always looked forward to her visits.

Something changed shortly after Rod started seeing Andy. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but Gladys' two or three visits a year trickled down to one, then none. Neither mother or son would give any details. When pressed, Rod would cryptically say, "You don't see what she's really like," and change the subject. And when we'd ask Gladys if she was coming up for the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving, she'd simply say she wasn't invited.

It's natural we want to blame Andy. He brought his own tribe into that relationship and had an unspoken – yet unmistakable – way of letting us know we were a notch or two beneath him. Gradually we started seeing less and less of Rod and Andy, and the time we did spend left a sour aftertaste. We recently heard they moved to the mountains, a couple hours out of town.

Whatever part Andy might have in all this, Rod is a grown ass man and the decisions he makes are his responsibility. It's hard for JB and I to imagine, from our perspective, what could come between a son and his mother that not long ago seemed so close. Especially when the opportunities to spend time together become more precious and less certain.

On one hand, it's not our business to interfere in their relationship. On the other, we have our own relationship with Gladys. And when we showed up on her Delray Beach doorstep on my birthday last Friday, she lit up like a christmas tree.

I said during our embrace, "I thought this year I'd save you the phone call."

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