Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Taking Shortcuts in a Drive-By Life

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Taking Shortcuts in a Drive-By Life

Article excerpt

It is rush hour when I pull up to my mother's apartment. I am still speeding internally through the after-work time zone. The momentum of the day is pushing me forward long after its engine has turned off.

Tonight, however, there is a job to be done, items on a list to be crossed off, a mission to be accomplished. My mother is moving, downsizing from one apartment to another, and we have all pledged to help.

My assigned task is to begin to triage the stuff of her life. To pare down and sort out which items from the past will go with her to the future. So I arrive from the office with my mind on efficiency and my eye on my watch.

Together we go through the rooms. This coat hasn't been worn in years. There is no room in the new apartment for this table. Surely, this skirt is out of style. Maybe the kids would want these dishes. Nobody uses ashtrays anymore. This lamp has got to go.

It takes a half hour of such speeding before I notice that my mother is in a different lane, traveling at a different pace altogether. While I am urging decisions, she is telling life stories. While I am trying to finish this job and get on to the next at home, she is considering this moment in her life.

She wants to talk about the friend who gave her this scarf, about the thousand family dinners around that dining room table, about the day she bought the lamp. She wants to say goodbye to these pieces of her past, one by one, before she lets them go.

Finally seeing this, I shift gears. I slow down and sit down. And doing so, I realize how easy it is to speed through important moments without even noticing.

I have a friend whose mother says with good humor that our whole generation should wear T-shirts that read, "Gotta Go." We are forever in a rush. We do drive-by visits.

They call us the sandwich generation because so many of us are caught between parents and children, work and home. But maybe we're named after the one item on the menu made to be taken on the run.

It's not just the tasks of life that we rush through. Not just the cleaning, the shopping, the commuting, the everyday maintenance. …

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