I feel like I finally have a relationship with my mother and now I’m losing her. Already.
For most of my life, I’ve struggled to find a relationship with her that is satisfying. In my teens and 20’s, I could only see that she and I were so different. I didn’t want to be anything like her.
In my 30’s I craved her approval. She hurt me often. I was continually disappointed and angry.
In my 40’s, I finally saw her: a woman, a mother, a daughter. None of those roles had been easy for her. She didn’t do a perfect job, but she did the best she could.
I have forgiven her. I have forgiven myself. We have become something close to comfortable with each other. She calls me for advice on dealing with her difficult mother.
And now, just when I have a relationship with her–not the one I’ve always desired, but enough that it feels satisfying–I am losing her.
She is losing herself. And so I am filling in for her, making doctor’s appointments, driving her to them, ensuring that she is eating well and taking her medications, helping her record receipts in her checkbook, listening to the same stories over and over.
I am becoming her mother.
This is not the role I want. I am doing it, though, and I am putting in my best effort to be a good mom to her. I ask her questions to get her talking if she wants, but I don’t push her if she wants to be quiet. I see the fear in her eyes, fear that she might become like her older sister living in the nursing home without her memories. I put on my calm demeanor.
I’m losing her. I can feel it. But I also know that God has uniquely prepared me for this. For the past five years I have been helping a friend, now quadriplegic, from MS. I wash and repair her clothing, I record appointments on her online calendar, I read devotions to her. In this way, I’ve learned to be calm, to listen, to be her hands and feet.
I’ve worked my way on the path to forgiveness, letting go of past hurts, learning to embrace others as they are, and creating a support system of women who provide the mothering I need, bits from one person, pieces from another. I’ve learned to be grateful for the gifts received from my mother and all the special women God has put in my life.
I’ve watched the movie Still Alice multiple times, having been so impacted that I wanted to understand how the black sheep daughter could come home to become caregiver for her mom. I’ve learned a new definition of love that incorporates steadfastness and selflessness without losing self.
Yes, I am losing her. But I’m gaining her, too. It’s not the way I always wanted it. I don’t feel prepared for it at this point in my life. But I’m learning. I will be calm. I will be grateful. I will love.