Monday, May 11

A Mother's Day reflection

My mother has dementia.

I know I'm not alone on this particular journey and that many of us whose mothers are in this darkened corridor battle guilt, frustration, impatience, and more. For some of us the journey is complicated because of the woman our mothers once were and the nature of our relationships. The person they seem to be now is often a dramatic change or a magnified version of what may be the worst or best qualities.

When I talked with my parents' neurologist some time ago, I was told that people manage their dementia differently. That some "go ugly." My mother is one of those. We were not close and our relationship was always marked (marred?) by tensions. Today I am annoyed that I feel guilty for doing what seems to be the best thing for my folks and that I am so impatient with their demanding natures without any apparent sense of the toll of their expectations. Today I feel pained that I see her less than she was, for seeing her stripped of certain filters that show what kind of individual she might really be. It could be a crippling confluence of emotions, and sometimes it is.

I spent a few hours with my folks on Friday and several hours with them on Saturday. It took me a day or so to recover. We went out on Saturday and I had to remind myself how rarely they have this sort of outing, how they must relish, in their own ways, being able to be out and to move around and to see and hear different things. I had to remind myself that their comments and their truculence is not personal. I had to remind myself to be patient about repeating things over and over and over again. I had to remind myself not to be frustrated that some things stick, though sometimes a little crookedly in their memories, while others do not. I had to remind myself not to be annoyed that some moments in time morph over the hours to a completely new story and that it's not really worth trying to correct that for anyone.

It would be so easy not to visit ever again. Not to make the effort, which seems to be appreciated by my stepfather but also seems never enough for my mother, which is the story of our lives. Not to call periodically so she has another connection to the outside world, which is getting increasingly cloudier for her.

I do not like my mother, and I certainly do not like the person she is today. But I do what I do out of a sense of responsibility because she is my mother and because I honor that in spite of and because of the nature of our relationship, I am who I am. And that in spite of and because of the nature of our relationship, I will strive to be a better version of myself. And for that I must and do thank my mother.

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