My mom prunes the Mexican Oak tree in my front yard with her bare hands. The tree stands catty-corner to the chain-link fence, standing guard against the neighbor’s driveway. It appears diseased as my mom tirelessly rips off each limb. The branches fall around her like the many stories we hold and can’t quite bring ourselves to honor. The limbs form a border between her and the trunk, reminiscent of the boundary I’ve drawn between us.
I watch her work effortlessly. She fits right in here, in this yard, in this barrio, in this familiar space, but she will leave. She will run from happiness. She will run from being seen and I will remember our boundary. How do I honor a parent with whom I’ve drawn a boundary?
Appreciate the Moment
“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12, NIV).
My mom disappears for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. It used to leave me feeling breathless and anxious. Four years ago, I took a boundaries course. I learned that my mom is never going to be the mom that I need. And that has to be okay with me. I had to stop asking why she was not around. I had to face it in order to draw a line around it. I had to make peace with it.
She won’t be there for my kids’ birthdays, she’ll not show up to her Mother’s Day lunch, she’ll turn off her phone at Christmas. My feelings, my well-being cannot be attached to this absence.
I must appreciate what I have in this moment.
Honor the Space for Peace
“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18).
I can honor my mom by creating space for peace. My door is always open. My love is always unconditional but my boundary is strong. My emotional well-being is not attached to her absence. My heart is not codependent on her ability to show up or not.
I learn from her pruning that we are going to make it.
That’s enough hope to last until I see her again. I hold no expectation of how long that will be. She taught us to make room for hope by living her life as if it was a garden in dire need of pruning.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, and every branch that does not bear fruit, He prunes to make it even more fruitful” (John 15:2, NIV).
My siblings and I were never taught to plant roots. We grew in jars of water. We had what we needed but we didn’t have anywhere to plant roots. We didn’t call anywhere home for too long. We didn’t have a family that stayed together to withstand time, grow old together, and pass traditions on from one matriarch to another.
She will disappear. I understand now that it’s the space she needs to inhabit, rebuild, and find herself in relation to us again. She will prune her way back to me, in time.
Honor the Labor
“God has made everything beautiful in its time. God has planted eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV).
She has chiseled away at life with her bare hands exactly the way she prunes my Mexican Oak–barbaric and proud. I learn that there is hope in being strong. There is promise of hope when we prune as long as we leave our expectations at the door.
Soon, she will not rip up trees, shovel advice, or dangle windchimes from the limbs. We don’t pick our parents. We can only choose the reaction we have to our parents when things don’t fall as naturally as we would like.
“See how much better it looks?” she beams.
I stumble toward where she is. I pick up branches from the ground and carry them to the mulch bin. She looks at my effort and smiles. I may not have the muscle to prune, but I have the muscle to clean up. Today, family looks like day labor and I honor this labor in her.