17: Roomies

17: Roomies

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom


Living together is an art.

~William Pickens

After my father passed away, I stayed with my mother to help her tackle the decisions for the memorial service and all the other things she needed to do after fifty-three years of marriage. During that time, after many long talks and many tears, we decided to try living together.

We’d always been close but we wondered if living in one house would end up being too close for comfort. Could we set parameters without wounding one another’s feelings? She worried about cramping my lifestyle. I worried that she would wait at the door when I came home late. She worried I would feel the need to tiptoe around in the morning while she slept, and I fretted I’d wake her when I headed to work.

During our discussions, we both realized we had only begun to scratch the surface. Would our idiosyncrasies bug each other? I put dirty dishes in the dishwasher immediately, but she doesn’t like using the dishwasher. I like white space on the walls. She likes the art gallery look. She watches television every night. I like to read or go out with friends.

We agreed on one thing without hesitation. Cleaning wasn’t a priority for either of us. We’d rather create memories. That helped us finalize our decision. We felt as long as we continued to be open and honest, and not let the small things bug us, our relationship would continue to flourish.

We took the plunge and agreed to reevaluate after six months.

Because I’m a gypsy at heart and not attached to “things,” I sold most of my belongings so she could keep hers. Still, she weeded through household items, sold a few pieces of furniture, and narrowed down her kitchen goods. We sorted out our duplicates and passed them on to others.

Within a month, we were roommates.

Living beneath one roof brought an inordinate amount of laughter into our lives. We giggled when we used a measuring tape and still couldn’t hang a picture straight. After the third try, we stuck a nail in the wall and hung the picture. We decided our intuition was better than planning ahead.

Now, we laugh at each other’s “senior moments.” There are many. When was the last time you laughed so hard your cheekbones hurt? It’s almost a daily occurrence with us.

We’ve discovered even the simplest things are better with two people. Cleaning house is less of a chore when divided by two. Yes, we do clean occasionally—when company is coming.

We agreed from the beginning not to let our different personalities become a sore point in our friendship. I know I can be bossy. She’s an advice-giver. But underneath, it is just because we care. So now we listen with a smile, then use what we want and ignore the rest.

We suspected dividing expenses would have financial benefits, but it took several months before we realized how positive an impact it made on our travel budgets. We booked our first cruise together. Then I took her to Southeast Arizona to show her the birds of the Sky Islands. In Ecuador we each received our first passport stamp.

We do Bible study together and gain new insight into one another and His Word, sometimes discovering something new about each another.

Whether we’re tackling a holiday decorating project or just asking, “Does this make me look fat?” we’ve discovered two heads are better than one. Hearing opinions from someone who loves unconditionally is an extra bonus. Of course, we’ve also found two minds do not guarantee things will always go smoothly. There have been times when one of us walked out the front door with different socks on and neither of us noticed until much later in the day. Like I said, senior moments occur.

The blessing I treasure the most is having my mother so close every day. I’ve witnessed a woman gracefully cope with the loss of a beloved spouse. I admire the life she’s created since my father died. She volunteers for several charities, plays bridge during the week, quilts and donates children’s blankets, and takes senior classes at the local college. She’s developed a group of strong friends.

I thought she would be standing at the door when I came home late, but in fact, there are times I get home and she’s still out visiting friends. At times I have to fight the temptation to call and ask, “Where are you?”

Although I’m certain it’s not always easy, she greets the challenges of her new life with a smile and sense of adventure. Now, instead of praying her idiosyncrasies will not rub me the wrong way, I pray her tenacity and spirit will rub off on me.

And that six-month reevaluation we agreed to? It’s been more than five years. We haven’t slowed down enough to have that conversation. Perhaps we never will.

~Gail Molsbee Morris

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