Distance but Not Distant

“I think about today. I think about tomorrow. I don’t give much thought to yesterdays.” — Yellowstone 

Our relationship has been far from easy. Unkind words have been exchanged and mean looks used to play a part whenever we communicated, but there have also been words of love, kindness, and support followed by a hug or a smile. On occasion there was an apology. The relationship I have with my mother is far from perfect, but it’s real. It’s one of the hardest relationships I’ve ever been in, yet however crazy it gets, I’ll always be all in. Even when she disagrees or can’t see the decisions I’m making are in her best interest. 

The accomplishment I’m most proud of is helping my mother realize her own personal strength and become independent for the first time at the age of 71. My mom went from a teenager living at home to 30 years of marriage. After she wed, she did not work outside the home; rather, she spent all of her adult life supporting my father. Then, in her late 40s, she and my father divorced. In the 20 years that followed, she lived with family, 11 of which were with my immediate family. Mom exuded unhappiness and a sense of unrest, which I suspected was connected to equal parts fear of dependency on others and fear of the unknown. After all, she had never been on her own or lived on her own. 

My husband was offered a new opportunity in a new city, and we were all excited. We’d always known we wanted to explore, to meet new people, and to create new experiences and memories. It was our time to move forward as a family. My mom had been living with us for more than a decade, and I needed time with my husband—just the two of us—to figure out life for us and our family as well as space so my relationship with my family could grow. 

My mom initially stayed behind, moving in with one of my brothers, but six months later she was living with us again. However, she wasn’t socializing like she once did and was fearful of driving anywhere. It became obvious how unhappy she was, away from her friends. I recall the day I sat down with her to tell her I knew she wasn’t happy and neither was I. I’m sure anyone standing outside my house could hear the spirited conversation and developmental feedback that were shared that day. The decision was made that she would move back to the city where she’d lived for 50 years and we would help her find a place of her own. 

We moved her back and into her own apartment, and I noticed a change in her demeanor and confidence by week two. At the end of the first month, she was visiting friends and flexing newfound comfort in being on her own, like a 67-year-old college student. 

As simple as this may sound in hindsight, it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make. It was one of the few times that I actually thought about me. I am proud of myself for being brave enough to ask for my independence, which in turn helped Mom realize her own strength.

I am proud of her because change is often scary, regardless of age.

Our relationship is stronger now than it has ever been. When I finally decided to look at myself and my relationship with my mother from a different perspective, it helped me see there’s so much more of her in me than I realized. I guess I unknowingly chose not to see the strength and courage she’s always had. 

I’m thankful our relationship weathered the difficult conversations and decisions that needed to be made. We became closer after I moved 600 miles away. Our conversations are now healthier and easier; we can have a difference of opinion and accept it; and we actually listen to each other without fear that we’re going to be judged, criticized, scared, or exhausted at the end of our conversation. 

While it can be easy to be judgmental and critical, I am learning to be curious and look at life with a much bigger lens. The only thing I know for sure is we will all die at some point. I refuse to live my life being judgmental and critical of things from the past. I choose to move forward, to accept what is and let go of what was, and to have faith in what will be. This includes my relationship with my mom.

Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different. It’s accepting the reality of what happened and moving on. What might have been is not what is. I am exactly where I am meant to be, and so is my mom, even if it’s 600 miles away from each other. After all, it’s just a phone call or a plane ride away. 

Tina Huey is a mom of two fantastic kids and wife of her hero, who also happens to be an incredible dad and husband. She is an avid reader, and a life long learner. She enjoys exercising. She loves to laugh—to find the ridiculous in adversity. She is passionate about life and living it to the fullest, being the best version of herself, and helping others in a positive way so we can all make this world a better place.