Mom: A Lesson in Character By Darla Arni
My mother is dying. Not a great thing to bring up in conversation or share at a party but it is the truth. It affects everything I think and feel and do. It makes me angry, sad, emotional and vulnerable. It makes me yell at dogs, slam doors, avoid people and cry at the slightest offense. She has been suffering from severe dementia for at least eight years. It is hard to pinpoint when it started because the changes are so gradual. I was not prepared and had no idea dementia could sneak into our lives like fog slipping in from the sea. There was no dramatic change, just the kind that makes you question yourself, reality and other people’s judgment.
For the last six years my mother has had no idea who I am. Basically, I am just a nice person that comes around. She never gets upset or fights me when I try to help her; she just has no clue that I am her daughter. Keeping on keeping up is exhausting but I want to do a good job at being a good daughter. I love her and feel a sense of history passing that I want to preserve and hold on to.
No one is ever ready to be parentless or become a parent to their parent. But it can be necessary and you find out that you are both stronger and weaker than you ever imagined. One day you are totally in control and the next you are a child mourning her mother who is fading before your eyes like a rare, precious photograph that cannot be restored. The biggest surprise has been the growth and expansion of love and wisdom that results from being thrown into the position of handler.
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and in a way it seems to be a test you are always preparing for yet never ready to take. It is a lesson in character, fortitude, love, purpose, thoughtfulness and I have no effect on the outcome. In helping her, I help myself; in preparing her, I prepare myself; in loving her, I learn to love myself. Even while she is fading she is teaching me.
Since she lives in a nursing home in my town, it is easy for me to pop in and out. While she is unable to engage in conversation, she does sometimes chatter but most of the time she is in such a deep sleep I have a hard time waking her so I can see her eyes and say hello. That’s how she was recently when I stopped by with my husband and daughter. I tried and tried to wake her. I repeatedly told her who I was and carried on both sides of the conversation in an attempt to woo her away from the other world she exists in now. As I was preparing to leave I knelt down close, told her who I was, gave her a hug and kiddingly said, “I love you Mom, do you know how much I really really love you?” something I have done countless times before. But this time, with eyes still closed, she raised her hand to my cheek and clear as a bell so she could be heard clear across the room said, “I know.” And with that she continued to give and teach me how to be a Mom.
Story Copyright 2011 Darla Arni
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Copyright Ark Stories 2011