By Karen Robertson
“Hi, Mom! What are you doing next Friday?” As I spoke into the telephone I smiled, picturing my elderly mother checking the calendar that hung in her kitchen. Age and cataracts had limited Mom’s ability to drive, limiting her independence. That, coupled with the loneliness of widowhood, told me she could benefit from some one-on-one attention. And so, drawing on my (not so) vast high school experience, I decided to ask my mother out on a date.
Mom had been particularly interested in recent news coverage of the flooded Mississippi River and had wistfully mentioned that she wished she could see the record-breaking river. She eagerly accepted my invitation to take her to a local museum located on the banks of the river, from which we could safely view the swollen waters. Thanks to these simple guidelines and a little preparation, our date was a great success.
- Advance Warning—Many people don’t like spur-of-the-moment plans, my mother included. I asked her out on our date a week in advance, giving her time to get used to the idea and for me to answer any questions she might have. It also added to her pleasure, giving her something to anticipate.
- Lay It All Out—I told Mom the basic outline of our date so she would know what to expect. (“I’ll pick you up at 9:00 and we’ll stop by McDonalds for coffee and a biscuit, so don’t eat breakfast that day. After we tour the museum and see the river, we’ll get lunch and then I’ll take you home.”) Let your date know what to wear, how long the date will last, and state up front that you will be picking up the tab. This alleviates any confusion or worries on their part. Besides, when you live alone, it’s fun to have someone else make decisions for a change.
- It’s Not About You—Let the day center around her schedule, not yours. If your mother is a late sleeper, don’t pick her up for an early brunch. If she takes a nap after lunch, make a date for the morning and have her back home before she tires. Don’t run your errands or do your shopping—save that for another time. Keep your date the primary focus, not an afterthought. Nothing speaks love like undivided attention.
- Be Prepared—Call ahead and make sure your destination has convenient parking or a drop-off zone for ease of walking. Ask if there are handicapped facilities, stairs, elevators, and wheelchair ramps.
- Take It Slow—When accompanying anyone elderly, leave your watch at home and don’t be in a hurry. Allow plenty of time so they don’t feel rushed. It took twenty minutes to get Mom from the parking lot into the museum, but I had vowed not to hurry her. She enjoyed admiring the landscaping and commenting on the beautiful weather as much as what was inside the museum. Patience is indeed a virtue on a date with your mother.
- Be Creative—A date needn’t be expensive. Check out the new grocery store in town or see an exhibit at the public library, both low-cost outings. Even taking your date to visit one of their old friends is a great idea. Mom not only appreciates me driving for her, but she loves to introduce me to her friends and include me in their conversations.
- Save the Date—If possible, a small souvenir of the date is a great idea. My mother loves photographs, so I took pictures with my cell phone during the day, even asking bystanders to snap a few of us together. Later, I printed them out and mailed her a small photo album. It reminds her of a wonderful day and gives her something to show to friends. Depending on the occasion, a corsage, a souvenir program, or a small gift are other ideas.
When I asked my mother on a date, little did I know what a blessing it would be to us both. Our time together was precious and the memories we made were so sweet. Perhaps there is someone special in your life that could benefit from a date with you.
Karen Robertson is a resident of Liberty, MS.You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.