What I Learned When I Tried to Get My Mom to Read

At the tail end of summer, my mom suffered a bad fall and fractured her leg. It was a devastating injury which rendered her immobilized for many weeks. True to form, she would not put up with being on bed rest for too long, and was up on her feet much faster than any sane person would deem appropriate. This fiercely determined woman needs to be in motion. But in the weeks that she did have some semblance of repose, I suggested she read something to pass the time.

This is no simple suggestion for my mom. A brilliant doctor and devoted mother, she has always put everyone else first for as long as I have known. That means not taking much time for herself, ever. Sure, a manicure once in a while, but hardly any time just for herself. So I thought, Awesome! This is the perfect opportunity! How else to help someone rediscover the pleasure of a gripping story? I know as a kid she used to sneak books inside her school texts and read when no one was watching. I just wanted her to find that exhilaration again.

Meh. It didn’t go the way I’d hoped. We had a copy of The Time Traveler’s Wife at home so she started reading that, but I don’t think her heart was in it. And no sooner than she got a few chapters in, then she was slowly getting back on her feet and put the reading aside. Ah, opportunity lost, slipped through my fingers like salt into the sea. But it’s given me a chance to reflect on something.

While reading has always been my refuge and second, third, umpteenth home, it isn’t fair of me to expect that it should be that way for everyone, even just within my family. I so wanted my mom to understand the transportational power, to have just one book make that difference for her. Some story, poem, or passage that alights a beacon within, and reminds her that no act of self care—be it reading or anything else—is a waste of time, everything has merit and significance and power. How many books have shone brightly in my horizon at different periods of life, and helped me not feel alone? Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing in elementary school. Contact by Carl Sagan in 8th grade. Sherlock Holmes and all of Douglas Adams’s works in high school. Life of Pi. Harry Potter. The list goes on and on.

But it’s entirely possible she doesn’t find sanctuary and, dare I say, much fun in reading. I should learn to accept that. I should respect that far greater potential for her relaxation and joy reside in other forms of arts, activities, simply being with her family.

Or…I just need to find the right book for her. I’m no expert on poetry collections but my guess is I should try starting there. Reading that she can fit into brief periods of time. Reading that will have the utmost impact in her packed lifestyle. So, I won’t throw in the towel on this one. Nah, I’ll keep it handy and won’t panic, as I think about what makes my mom tick. I’m happy to take suggestions too. If you know what would engage an amazing mom who just wants to find the beauty, love, and happiness in everything, please let me know. I can’t go out on The Time Traveler’s Wife, I just can’t.

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