Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Thinning air

Navigating this disease is like mountain climbing: the air becomes increasingly thin and it becomes ever harder to draw a good breath. The upside of course, is the views. In this case, it's the views of the truth of self that make the journey worthwhile.

The pulling and tugging over the Mummy's new clothes continues. I've had no success as yet in getting Mummy to wear the new pyjamas over an extended period of time. There is comfort, I gather, in her wearing old tired clothing. It's familiar. She knows to whom it belongs. She is not convinced that the new stuff is hers and it is therefore suspect. The wearing of the old clothes is hard for me to watch but apparently, our tug-o-war over new pyjamas is harder still for my sister to watch.

Most dangerous of all in this journey, are the unintended (negative) psychological consequences of our actions - whatever their motivations might be - on self. I feel compelled to get Mummy into some decent looking home and night clothes, but the journey to that place is fraught with tension and dark looks and the reason I insist on making it is not entirely clear to me. And for the onlooker, the whole thing is a painful exercise. My sister just told me she wishes I would stop. Can I? I don't know.

In my posts to this point, I have rarely said much about my relationship with my mother. I have steered pretty clear of that for the simple reason that there ain't much to say. I'm not sure what the relationship was when she was well, and given current circumstances, there really ain't nothing to tell. Whatever it was when it was something, these days my singular goal in this relationship is to be the not Mummy. With our roles reversed, my goal is to not be the Mummy that I so often experienced. It's very hard work and I so often fail.

I mentioned in another post that Mummy was a 'pragmatic parent'. This is true. But with that academic, dietary, extracurricular activity pragmatism came a lot of shouting and anger. Academics, food, extracurricular activities were all well taken care of, but we were shouted at a helluva lot. Mummy was, I think, a very frustrated single parent, deeply disappointed by the turn of events in her life (the parallels to my current universe are alarming) and the only acceptable(?) outlet for that frustration was her children. As a consequence, there was a surfeit of angry outbursts and a dearth of loving kindness. Fortunately, we had our grandmother who acted as a countervailing influence in our lives. Mummy hugged us when we got off planes, not when knees were scraped, egos bruised or hearts broken. Granny on the other hand, loved us abundantly, openly and often. With her, there were nicknames and foolish games. Not so with Mummy.

My efforts to make sure that Mummy goes out looking good or hangs around the house looking decent, are a consequence of my attempts to make her look as though she is loved because, shame on me, I don't know that she is. At a visceral level, the love is there but it's that kind of love that can't be avoided, the automatic love of a child for a parent. That's the love we're hard wired to feel. A more adult, conscious, 'I love you because you're you' kind of love that is built on mutual respect and understanding, has never had opportunity to take root and grow and in the situation where a parent has Alzheimer's disease, it sadly never will.

I speak only truth, hard truth but truth all the same.

Don't get me wrong. Mummy did the best she could. We, my sister and I, are well educated (and at considerable personal sacrifice to Barbs). We know how to eat with a knife and fork (!), have manners (when we choose to use them), have respect for our elders and given opportunity, will work and be good taxpaying citizens. Our intellects have been well developed and we even have a few gifts and graces which have also been developed. We have integrity and are, by and large, decent human beings. None of this happens by accident. And, in spite of all that she was unable to give us, we seem to be able to give much love and affection to the one offspring one of us (not me) has managed to produce, so all is not lost. But the eschewal of anger, remains a bugbear. Perhaps I shouldn't admit that? OK. Let's pretend I didn't.

Honestly, this hill is getting steeper and the air harder to breathe. Still, we climb on and I for one, will continue my quest for a zen-like state of being that gets me to the end of this road; a state that allows Mummy to wear whatever she wants and me to be OK with it.

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