Role Reversal

17 Feb

When I was in 3rd grade my Nana had a heart attack. It happened right after Thanksgiving and my grandparents wedding anniversary that year. I was only eight years old, but I still have some vivid memories of that time. It started with an emergency bypass surgery followed by time on a ventilator. Then, there was a hospital-born staph infection resulting in another surgery. More time in the ICU, step down units, and finally weeks in a rehab. I can close my eyes and picture all of those moments as if it all happened weeks ago. Mostly I remember our Friday routine. Every Thursday night while I prepared my things for the weekend my mom would write the required request for early dismissal the next day. On Friday mornings she would drop me off, note in hand, only to return hours later for the 3 hour drive to be with my grandparents in Pennsylvania. We repeated this routine every weekend for months. Sometimes in our car, sometimes in a rental, but always the two of us. I played quiet and concerned co-pilot to her frazzled yet steady driver. Together we welcomed my first cousin, Christmas, and watched winter melt into spring as we traveled back and forth. It’s safe to say I came to know those stretches of highway like the back of my hand. When we got the call this past Thursday that my Nana was headed to the hospital once again, for something that turned out to be less serious than we initially thought, I looked at my mom and said calmly, “Don’t worry, I’ll drive.” On Thursday night, just like the Thursdays of our past, we planned and prepared for our Friday routine. For all of those months when I was younger I could only sit by her side as I watched my mother struggling and tired, but now I could share some of the burden in this simple way. On a long stretch of road on the way to the tiny Pennsylvania coal mining town that my mother calls home, a place where things slow down even though the car is picking up speed, it occurred to me that things had come full circle. I was in the driver’s seat, steady and quiet, and my mother had become the worried passenger that I once was.


2 Responses to “Role Reversal”

  1. George February 24, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    There is something sweet about getting to play the roles for our parents that they once played. Sort of a return of a favor.

  2. Seonaid February 25, 2009 at 10:27 pm #

    Yay Jillian, glad to see you blogging again!!! Those full circle moments sometimes feel so nice.. especially when you find yourself being for your parents something that they once were for you.

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