Marty Romero

The move to Washington and my aging mom

Mom, my sister and me. Teresa Leon in her mid 40s. I don’t remember where this was nor who took the picture, but that’s me in the white hat.


When I think of my mom, two words come to mind, determination and fearlessness. I like to think that she taught me to be a little of both. She also taught me to be stubborn to a fault.

This is one of my favorite pictures of her. Although you can’t see the detail in her eyes, her expression says it all. Look at her posture. Look at her shoulders. Look at her soft brown skin. This picture was taken when mom was in her mid 40s. I don’t remember it (yes, that’s me in the fashionable white hat).

The look in this picture is familiar. I saw it hundreds of times when the stress of caring for a handicapped daughter (my sister) and a troublesome son (yup, me) was too much. She has always been determined, strong willed, hard, and hard working. She has always had a piercing sounding voice, louder than anyone would like. But, it’s also tender and soft when she wants it to be.

In her latter years she has become more fragile. When I touch her shoulders she cries out in pain from arthritis. She moves slow, to the pace of a snail even. She limps along for five steps before she is too tired to continue. Her hands shake, and when she carries the lightest of things, you think that the weight will take her down. Her skin fits her body loosely now, and the wrinkles in her face and in her hands give away the fact that she is turning eighty.

This woman is largely responsible for who I am and I love her so much.


Moving to Washington for me was largely about reseting our lives–(ours, meaning me and my wife), but it was also about offering mom a way to not live alone anymore. For as long as I can remember, I longed for the day when I could say to her “mom, here are the keys to your house. Thank you, you don’t have to work, or live alone anymore. I got this.” But I have failed.

The move has been so detrimental for her. I failed to see that for her, Washington would mean loosing her home, her independence, her friends, control of her environment, and more. In exchange, I have given her a room in a house, in a town that she doesn’t know.

The arguments that we have had in the past six months have underscored the control that she exerts over me. I love and recent her for it. I love her for it because she used it to keep me safe (mostly from my own stupidity) for many years. I recent her for it, because she keeps my independence out of arm’s reach, and I need to be independent.

I don’t want her to say “thank you.” I don’t want her to admit that she is wrong. I don’t want her to stop “burdening me” (as she calls it) with her needs. What I really want is to hear her say, “I am proud of you.” Yes, I am a cliché. I long for my mother’s approval. I want her to say, “you have grown into an honest, responsible man and I am proud of you.” That is what I want, but I have failed! She is making plans to use the four week trip to Utah, to find a place where she can live on her own again. Washington without the two most important people in my life is not going to be the same. I feel so sad.

Dear Dad,
Why the fuck did you not teach me how to do this?! Caring for mom was your job. I would have helped, but you should have taught me how!

Jose Romero