I wasn’t prepared. I had volunteered at senior facilities in my youth. During my adult years, I have sung Christmas carols, delivered care packages and even visited my ex-husband’s father when he resided there prior to his death. But never had I dealt with someone I loved being incapacitated. Then it changes.
Some of you may recall about 7 years ago I reconnected with my biological mother after many years of separation. With that much passage of time, there is really no way to form abond like many children or adult children have with a parent but it was still healing in many ways. It gave me a sense of closure to at least hear an ‘I love you’ from the person who brought me into the world. For so many years I felt unloved and forced upon my stepmother. I was part of a package deal knowing it was my father she was in love with and not me or my sister. Our dad had custody of both of us when they divorced as she had left us..
Seeing my mother and getting to know her better, it didn’t take long at all to see why we weren’t raised by her. The flaws don’t take long to come out. But there is a connection there, a love and at times, a real joy. Moments when she is truly the mother I dreamed of having, though fleeting. Much of the time, I dealt with the reality of who she was and was forced to accept, it is what it is.
Now her condition has worsened significantly as her health has not only deteriorated butdementia has kicked in. As the last year or two has gone by, it seems as if everything has accelerated. Maybe it didn’t progress that quickly, when I look back at all the things that have been going on the past four years but, in not knowing her, I had no idea what was normal and what was not in her behavior. There were falls, unexplained lapses in memory, outbursts of anger, odd behaviors out of left field, that left my sister and I calling Adult Services frantic with worry for her well-being. She was placed over a year and a half ago in an independent living center for her own good. She is watched over and provided her meals. Best of all, all of her medications are administered which helps not compromise as much her heart condition and ensure her meds are taken properly. We had hoped this would help stop the downward progression we have seen. It hasn't though but she has been much safer.
I sit here now, full of a heavy heart as we are at the stage I never wanted to see happen. When I pick up the phone, I am never quite sure who will be on the end of the phone anymore. I have only my mother and my sister that I am closely connected too and communicate with regularly on somewhat of a biweekly basis and now my mom is losing it, losing touch with reality. It is as if she is partially dead to me but still alive.
As my husband tries to comfort me, he can’t quit comprehend as his mother died with her mind intact. My mom will call sometimes sobbing in sadness, full of a heavy heartinconsolable like a child. The next call may be her happy full of joy laughing at hearing my voice and in midstream angry at me over something simple like I didn’t call her back over some message she never left or bad-mouthing my sister only forgetting who she is talking to and saying my name. And the reverse happens when she talks to my sister. She has forgotten how to be happy.
The ability to discern truth from fiction is hard for her. Her brain doesn’t comprehend it clearly anymore at times. I am so grateful I had the time to reconnect before this dissension. As my sister and I share stories of a trip or two we have taken her on, we laugh with glee over the funny moments and then stop in silence with where we are now. We remind each other we are indeed blessed with those memories but yet are faced with the fact there will not be anymore of those for us with our mother. She is a skeleton of who she was.
It is refreshing to have each other to share this experience with. There were periods in our lives when we weren't as close. Thank God we are now so that this isn't something either of us has to experience alone. Mom use to tell us she knew her mind was starting to go and was scared. She use to say she was a sorry excuse for a mother and didn't deserve us, both of us being there for her now, as she was losing it and closer to the end. She would apologize over and over again for everything that she wasn't. We let her know as God forgives we forgave her a long time ago. Hate has no place in this world but our relationship would always be different because we are different. I think she got it, she stopped saying it. Now she doesn’t say it at all anymore. She actually doesn't say nearly as much. She is more like a self-centered child with a mind that is not nearly as reflective as her age. I am glad. I don’t want her suffering or realizing her physical condition.
Wow, is it different when it is someone you know, someone you care for, your own parent. The best advice I get is from my friends, to try to not react to anything she says. So when I get yelled at, cried at, begged for something impossible to deliver or whatever, I am learning to simply 'be', listen and respond simply. I must keep my emotions on a shelf, at least while on the phone or with her. No, I wasn’t prepared for this. And yet, I am glad I wasn’t. It would have hurt too much to know in advance.
Thank you God for a few moments with my mom to hear I love you. As her mind goes and one day she leaves this place and goes home to you, I will have some memories shared. I will have had hugs with arms that held me as mothers do to their daughters when they are growing to give them strength and courage. My time has given her peace to know I have forgiven her for her transgressions. And most of all, I have been able to heal from the pain. God bless my mother inside with what she needs to finish her time here.