My parents with my three kiddos this summer. (Note my dad’s Runner’s World tee!)

My mother was very much on my mind during my weekend long run: At 86, she’s having hip replacement surgery today. I’m spending this week at my childhood home in Connecticut to take care of my dad while my mom is in the hospital and rehab. My mom, from hardy stock, is strong, stoic, and in relatively good health. Still, it was hard not to let concerns and thoughts of “what if?” cast a slight pall over an otherwise exquisitely gorgeous early fall day.

With about 15 miles to cover, I wound my way along sun-dappled roads lined with lovely homes, many built nearly two centuries ago. But it was a house completed a mere 63 years ago (“recently” in New England terms) that made me stop for a closer look: the Philip Johnson Glass House. Despite growing up only about five miles from it, I’d never visited this famous house–and its stunningly beautiful grounds and outbuildings–until a few years with my mother. Turns out she’d never gone to see it, either. The tours of the house and the property are tightly controlled: My mother and I opted for the shorter tour, in large part because her already-ailing hip wouldn’t allow her to be on her feet for more than the hour the tour entailed. This tour option also didn’t allow visitors to take photos.

The view from the Glass House: a surprisingly well-framed shot, despite me shooting it blindly on the sly.

As soon as we arrived–on a beautiful summer day, reminiscent of Sunday, except for the air temperature–I regretted being unable to snap photographs. So, let me confess, I  took out my iPhone, and as casual as could be, surreptitiously started taking pictures by simply holding the phone down by my side and pressing the camera button without looking through the viewfinder. My mother, who I thought didn’t know an iPhone from an igloo, wandered over to me, and quietly asked, “Does your phone take photos?” My covert reply, “I’m on it, Mom.”

Yesterday, as I stood on the stone wall surrounding the Glass House in my running clothes, I chuckled as I remembered our shared sneakiness. My mother is a devout Catholic, yet her conscience let her bend the rules ever-so-slightly to allow us to get lasting images of our visit.

Then, like a gust of wind rustling some early fall leaves, my mood turned more sober. As Peter Gabriel’s poignant song “Wallflower” played on my iPod, I focused on the thought of something going wrong with my mom’s surgery or recovery. My smile vanished, and tears sprang to my eyes. I look up at the cerulean sky, where wispy clouds jetted by. Unlike my mother, I rarely turn to God, but I asked that all will go well with my mother in the coming days. Maybe next summer, her new hip will allow us to return to the Glass House and take the longer tour–and some proper photos.