After 22 years of marriage, I've discovered the secret to keeping love and intimacy alive in my relationship with my wife, Peggy: I started dating another woman.

The “ other woman” my wife was encouraging me to date is my mother, a 72-year-old widow who has lived alone since my father died 20 years ago. Right after his death, I moved 2500 miles away to California and started my own family and career. When I moved back near my hometown six years ago, I promised myself that I would spend more time with Mom. But with the demands of my job and three kids, I never got around to seeing her much beyond family get-togethers1 and holidays.

She was surprised and suspicious,then, when I called and suggested the two of us go out to dinner and a movie.“ What's wrong?” she asked.My mother thinks anything out of the ordinary signals bad news.“ I thought it would be nice to spend some time with you,” I said. “ Just the two of us.” “ I'd like that a lot.” she replied.

As I drove to her house, I actually had a case of predate2 jitters3!What would we talk about? What if she didn't like the restaurant I chose?

When I pulled into her driveway, she was waiting by the door with her coat on. Her hair was curled, and she was smiling. “ I told my lady friends I was going out with my son, and they were all impressed4,” she said as she got into my car. “ They can't wait to hear about our evening.”

We didn't go anywhere fancy, just a neighborhood place where we could talk. My mother clutched5 my arm, half out of affection6 and half to help her negotiate7 the restaurant steps.Since her eyes now see only large shapes and shadows, I had to read the menu for both of us. Halfway through reciting8 the entré es9, I glanced up and saw Mom looking at me, a wistful10 smile on her lips. “ I used to be the menureader when you were little,” she said.I understood what she was saying. From caregiver to cared-for, from cared-or to caregiver, our relationship had come full circle11. “ Then it's time for you to relax and let me return the favor,” I said.We had a nice talk over dinner. Nothing earth-shattering12, just catching up with each other's lives. We talked for so long that we missed the movie. “ I'll go out with you again,” my mother said as I dropped her off13, “ But only if you let me buy dinner next time.” I agreed.

“ How was your date?” my wife asked when I got home that evening.“ Nice...nicer than I thought it would be,” I said. She smiled her told-you-so smile.

Mom and I go out for dinner a couple of times a month.Sometimes we take in14 a movie,but mostly we talk.I tell her about my trials15 at work and brag about16 the kids and Peggy.Mom fills me in17 on family gossip and tells me about her past. Now I know what it was like for her to work in a factory during World WarⅡ . I know how she met my father there, and how they nurtured18 a trolley-car19 courtship20 through those difficult times. I can't get enough of these stories. They are important to me, a part of my history.We also talk about the future. Because of health problems, my mother worries about the days ahead. “ I have so much living to do,” she told me once. “ I need to be there while my grandchildren grow up. I don't want to miss any of it.”

I tend to fill my calendar to the brim21 as I struggle to fit family, career and friendships into my life. I often complain about how quickly time flies. Spending time with my mom has taught me the importance of slowing down.