A few years ago I penned a love letter of sorts to Mother’s Day and to my own dear Momma. You can read it here if you’re so inclined.
I think about President Wilson and his gift-giving coup every year as I ponder what Mother’s Day present to arrange for the lady who gave so much to successfully raise my Thister and myself. She worked hard and was specific about our responsibilities as ladies and to members of our extended family and the human race as a whole. She led by example. She has always loved us with a fierce loyalty that was occasionally as suffocating as it was enriching. She set a bar so high I used it as an excuse to avoid tackling motherhood myself. She was and is Mother/Mom/Momma. Our own dear Sally. And we love her, I think, as much as she has loved us. We are each of us tremendously fortunate, and Thister and I are (along with Husband, Niece and Ex-Brother-in-Law) doing our level best to keep her safe as her years pass.
It’s hard, but certainly this situation is not unique to my family. Everyone reading this has, is now or will one day be in these same awkward shoes: The Caring for An Aging Parent shoes. I think we can all agree these shoes suck.
Our arrangements have gotten more complicated recently as Mom’s health as waned at a faster pace. She’s profoundly diabetic, as you may recall from another blog post awhile back, and the disease has only continued its assault on her physically and emotionally. It’s a cruel irony that it has largely manifested itself in damage to her brain tissue. Our mother’s razor-sharp wit and wicked sense of humor has dulled. The seemingly endless compassion and empathy for her fellow humans that cemented her skills in hospice social work has likewise ebbed. She doesn’t feel good, for one thing, and she knows her memory and cognition are not what once they were. She is often childlike in her desires and mood. Like most sick folks (or folks in general, really) she has good days and bad, but watching her cognitive decline is insult to injury for her and for those of us who know her and love her best.
Of course we know part of the reason Mom’s disease has advanced as it has. As hyper smart as she’s always been, she’s also a little too smart for her own good. She denied advice from medical professionals to follow medical and physical regimens and believed she knew what was best. And she was wrong. Ignoring her symptoms and self-treating allowed her diabetes to ravage her system. And as it did so, it became easier for her to deny the care plans she needed. It became a vicious cycle as well as a goddamned infuriating and terrifying shame. I keep telling Husband, this is not the woman who raised me. This is not the Sally of my youth. If I could give her any gift tomorrow, it would be a return to that darling woman who provided tough love but tender care. Who was quick to laugh and quicker to hug. I would give her back her Sally-ness. But that is impossible.
While I watch the dementia sparked by Mom’s diabetes develop, I find myself often paralyzed by doubt and fear about my own neurological situation. So I try to do what she did not. To keep on my feet. I try to keep moving. I take my crazy-expensive medications and hope my faith in medicine isn’t going to kick me in the proverbial testicles. Because I love my mother and I want to be like her in so many ways. I want to make her proud. I want to keep certain Sally parts of myself healthy. But I don’t want to be stubborn about my disease.
I want to give her a Mother’s Day gift of health and fortitude and healthy years ahead, but I’m afraid that’s impossible. My heart breaks for us both.