I've been planning a trip to go see my mom in St. Croix for something like six months. She's been living there for exactly a year and a half. And I have been there exactly never.
Most recently I told Frances, my mom, I was definitely coming for Mother's Day, which was about a year after I was originally planning to go. Then I didn't because life -- and student loans, and moving, and weddings and the price of tea in China. It was a lot. When I broke the bad news that I couldn't get to the Island she sounded disappointed, but said she understood.
So when, then? August, I said. I would absolutely definitely certainly make it in August. August is practically here and it's not looking so good.
So when I read about this new website called See Your Folks in which you input your mom and dad's stats -- age, country, how many times you usually visit -- and the Great Oz of the Internet then decrees how many times you'll "see your folks" before they bite the big one, I was morbidly obsessed.
Apparently I'm slated to see my mother another 17.5 times. SEVENTEEN POINT FIVE. That is nothing. That is ridiculous. That is obscene. That is a travesty. That is most likely totally accurate.
Jezebel called See Your Folks, which arrives at its doomsday number by culling life expectancy data from the World Health Organization, "depressing":
"...if I seriously visited my parents only because I was fully aware of the fact that one day they will be dead, the visits wouldn't be fun for anyone. I can't imagine my parents would enjoy it if I spent the entire time in my childhood home sobbing drug store eye makeup onto their shirts and begging them to write me handwritten letters about lessons they've learned in life."
I disagree. Being reminded of my mom's mortality -- though gut-punching as it may be -- is a necessary wake-up call. For those of us who don't live driving distance from their families, your parents can begin to take on an almost abstract omniscience. I see her on (unfortunately) Facebook, in email, over text and in the mirror. I hear her on the phone and in my own voice. She's always there if not always here. It's a comforting security blanket, the connectivity of the digital age, and I'm happy to have it ripped from my clutching hands.
Visiting once a year seemed like a decent mark to shoot for when I factored in that there's an ocean between us now. Then when that year stretched to 18 months, I reasoned that we'd be doing a full immersion trip -- 24 hours of mother-daughter time times four days is like 10 visits in one, right? Yeah, I don't believe me either.
And all this is coming to head as I plan another work trip, another flight in the opposite direction of where I should be headed. But that's life, isn't it? Juggling a million priorities, managing expectations and checking off commitments. One trip my mom never pushes for is the guilt trip. But how else is a kid supposed to feel?
Guilt might be a good thing, especially if I can use it as gas. To me knowing that once-a-year visits aren't going to cut it is more empowering than it is depressing. Seventeen point five times? Nothing doing. Now I can see clearly in big bold numbers that it isn't a luxury or a wish list item to get to see my mom a few times a year, it's just the price of doing business.
Do you want to know how many times you might see your parents before they die? Or is ignorance truly bliss?