My mom’s black cane stands against the grey wall in the corner of our garage. Sometimes I pause and hear the slow beat of its dance, as I manuever my car into its place. On the exact opposite wall, my daughter’s pink princess bike is parked, the basket in front screams of youth and blank slates.

I am in the center, the adult, between my mom, the senior citizen, and my daughter, just a few months shy of her fifth birthday. It’s a precarious place to be, watching my daughter at the entrance of anticipation, while my mother experiences the ache of widowhood. I see-saw between two extremes, trying to balance the needs of both.

I find myself comforting my daughter when she cries, the loudness of her angst, vibrates through the walls, the catalyst from simple frustrations like not being able to string her hand through her sleeve. My mom will also suddenly break into tears, remembering some specific memory about my father, like how much he liked Taco Bell hot sauce.  On nights my husband and I decide to do a date night, I make certain both my mom and my daughter have dinner before we leave, ensuring their tummies are full so they can sleep well. On weekends, I play chauffeur, shuffling my daughter to a playdate, while dropping my mom off at the mall. When they are both asleep, I check my daughter’s school schedule to make certain I haven’t missed an important something and then minutes later, I switch to a calculator and checkbook, paying my mom’s bills.

As I pass by mom’s room, in our house, there is a part of me that doesn’t want her to be here. I don’t want to open the bathroom cabinet and see the medicine she has to take to push through this life or to hear her cry in the middle of the night, the pain only her pillow understands. For just a second, I want her to have her old life. Her life with my father, sharing tea on their dining room table, my dad teasing her about too much sugar and her poking him in the ribs. I want to walk into the house and be the kid again, touching my father’s bald head, high-fiving my sister, and letting my mom hug me and asking me how I am doing.

I can list all of the times when I thought I was an adult, from turning 18 to graduating law school or my first real job or getting married or having a baby. I’ve learned that milestone moments do not define the foray into adulthood. I entered adulthood when roles reversed. I am the real mother of my daughter, and after my father passed, the symbolic mother of my own mom.

I’m not a kid anymore.

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When did you become an adult? Was there a defining moment ?

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