Reflecting on October with my Mother

My mom recently told me that the last leaves to turn are the Sugar Maples. They turn a brilliant red, an impossible color to describe. She tells me this as we meander our way through a state park on a perfect, October day.

I don’t remember growing up with brilliant Octobers, though my Pakistani childhood in the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range must have had some sort of fall. As I travel back in my memories, I remember pristine snow-capped mountains and tall pine trees that whispered in the spring wind, roared in the summer monsoons, and lay heavy with snow when we left for winter vacation. Fall colors are not in my memory. Fall colors feel quintessentially New England and the October I now experience is the October of my mother.

She grew up in New England. Until she moved to Pakistan she lived in a world of seasons and colors. White, mountain laurel in the summer, golden, red, and orange leaves of the fall, cold snows of the winter, and buds peaking over picket fences in the spring. Or so I imagine.

It was a delight recently to spend time with her – not in New England, but in New York where she now makes her home. My mom is 91, a vibrant, lovely 91. She is an example of aging with an attitude of intentional flexibility. She looks and acts younger than many 75 year olds that I know.

“How are you doing?” I say to her on the phone. “A bit achy,” she replies and then goes on to tell me that she took her walk this morning, finished up a chapter of the book she is writing, and went to Bible Study. She has aged with intention, yet has made room for the inevitable change and losses that come with the word and the reality of a body that is destined for a better world than the one where it currently resides.

Her home is now with my brother and sister-in-law in Rochester, New York. Rochester has its own beauty and the recent weekend that I visited her in October was not a disappointment. We made plans to go to a state park, where miles and miles of roads and untouched beauty are there for pure pleasure.

We meandered along, stopping occasionally to look over a gorge or take pictures of the cascading trees that bent toward the road below. We had lunch at an inn, savoring the food and the time together. We looked out over a waterfall, the spray reaching high above even as the water fell far below.

It was beautiful. These days with her are slow and reflective. We spend time reading her old diaries, talking about our different current realities, and eating at least one decadent pastry during our time together.

Anyone who has walked the journey of watching a parent age knows the bittersweet realities of time together. We watch as a process beyond our control takes away too many things from the person we love. We watch, and inside we sometimes shudder. It is too close to home. It will come for us too. Though not yet, it will come. This we know. This we can count on. But to step away from the shudder, and into the beauty of an aging life is so worth it. To laugh, read old diaries, sit comfortably in the shadow of an Autumn evening, and eat pastries with more whipped cream than a cardiologist could possibly approve of – these are times that won’t be forgotten, times that we will look back on with immeasurable gratitude.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

Lucy Maud Montgomery

It was Lucy Maud Montgomery, creator of the beloved Anne of Green Gables Series who wrote that quotable phrase for all of us to use through these years. As I reflect on my October weekend with my mom, I think “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers and my mother.”

8 thoughts on “Reflecting on October with my Mother

  1. I absolutely love this meandering that you entered into with your dear mother. How blessed you both are that she
    can get out and enjoy nature so much. Her imprint on your life is so evident, Marilyn. That sweet, darling daughter she and your father douted on after having all those strong, husky boys is a gift to the world.
    You are greatly blessed my dear.

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  2. It is so true. Both my parents are gone, now, but I look back and praise the Lord for the times we had together, and the rich memories we made. Funny thing: I am currently in Michigan for the Fall, and am loving every colorful leaf. I normally live on the Oregon coast, with tall evergreens and stormy blue ocean with stark white foam on the top. It is rugged, wild, and beautiful, with slashing storms and high winds. This year in Michigan, it is just quiet, cold, and stunningly gorgeous.

    May your mother have many more years with you. God be with you both.

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  3. Thank you for this lovely description of the time with your dear mother. I feel a sense of conviction as I have been attempting to assist my aging parents from a distance after 2 one week stays in August and September. Mom just turned 92 and Dad will be 91 this week. I am convicted of becoming easily frustrated and impatient when mom can’t hear me on the phone unless I yell into it, or many other issues as my son and I have taken over their finances and management of much. I am thankful in the midst of my frustration in trying to balance work, children’s and grandchildren’s needs with my parents that I see my children be ever so patient with my mother with loving acceptance. So, tonight I will call again and check on her, even yell into the phone so she can hear and tell her I love her.

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  4. Lovely Marilyn! Sounds like you were at Letchworth State Park, perhaps? Such a gem in western NY. Blessings to you and your family and the blessings of mom-visits.

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  5. Ah, Marilyn, thank you for the weekend. We had well-nigh perfect weather for our Saturday jaunt. the following weekend the leaves were more brilliant, likely a bit past peak, but cloudy as so many of our Rochester days are. And on aging, did you say it or was it someone else recently, “That train comes for all of us eventually.” There are days i don’t feel the privilege of living this long, but I truly am blessed: to attend the wedding celebrations for two granddaughters this fall, to see and chat with my great grandchildren, growing up so fast, and their parents, aunts and uncles, of course. And while my sight is dimmer than I like, I could still see the beauty of fall in the northeast. How good God is to give this before the inevitable winter that must come.

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