It happens all the day long...the suggestions I have to
make to my mom for the simplest of activities. At their best,
they feel like reminders to someone who is forgetful. At their
worst they feel like nagging. At their saddest they feel like
I am mothering my mother. It seems to happen
most often on the days that my mom is most like her old
free-spirited self....when direction from her daughter
must strike a sour note somewhere within her.
It always feels inharmonious to me....when I gently
remind my mother to brush her teeth after breakfast
and she insists she has already done so (tho' she has never
left the room and is just remembering doing so last night-
time is an odd thing now for my mom and isn't measured
in the same way it used to be). Sometimes I let it go, feeling
that our relationship is more important than the state of
her teeth. Sometimes I am concerned about her teeth and
show her the bone-dry toothbrush and she brushes, tho'
grudgingly, never quite believing me.
It is an uncomfortable dance.
Today, after we had a Sunday treat of brunch and a
old movie on the telly, my mom was at a loss for what
to do. Unfortunately, my mom never had many pastimes
beyond reading....crosswords are beyond her now and it
is too hot to be outside...and tho' reading continues to be
a great pleasure, today is one of those days when whatever
she is reading becomes too real to her and she feels the
need to put it aside. So she asked me what she could
do with herself. I suggested a walk around the house
(something she has always done and what she does
here on the hot days) and when she started to get
her flimsy sandals (I need to buy her more supportive
ones and get rid of these-a constant task, weeding out
the inappropriate things to her more fragile life now)
I suggested her tennis shoes. She objected and wanted
to know why and I reminded her of her need for balance
and support. When she scoffed at that, I reminded
her of her fall and her sometime wobbliness. I never like
to do that, and perhaps I shouldn't...it subdues her
and touches her pride, I think. So then I pointed to my
own feet, in my Birkenstock sandals and told my mom that
at 51 my feet are also needing more support these days.
She grumbled, but asked where her shoes were, I pointed
her towards her room and she put on her shoes and
promptly forgot the exchange.
But it brought me here, feeling the need to put
into words the anguish of having to mother my mother.
It really started many years ago, long before we had
any inkling of the dementia. In fact, it has been ages since my
mom has mothered me. She is sweet and grateful
and funny most of the time...but she is no longer
maternal....and I am missing that.
Someday, I will more gracefully accept this and so
many other hard things that are a part of this journey.
But today, I am just missing my mother.