The last few months have been full of turmoil. I didn’t realize until recently that I was carrying the emotional load for two – for me and for what I imagined Mom was feeling.
I didn’t realize how lonely and empty our house would feel without Mom living here.
I didn’t realize how much I would miss, or would long for, the tender moments, with the not so tender moments easily fading from memory.
I didn’t realize how tormented I would feel when I visited Mom, and things were better, and I wondered if they could have been better if she were still at home.
I didn’t realize the heartbreak I would feel each time I left her new residence and Mom asked if she could come home with me.
I didn’t realize that minutes after I left, Mom likely didn’t remember I had been there.
I also didn’t realize that the sadness and guilt I felt upon arrival and seeing her sitting and staring into space is likely not shared by her. That her resting and having less stimulation is a form of cognitive reserve, a way for her body and mind to store up energy and serotonin so that our visits are lovely and not fraught with violence. Just because it causes me guilt, doesn’t mean it’s causing her sadness or uncomfortableness.
I look back at my writings and talk to close friends who remind me of the agony of our existence at the beginning of the year. The screaming, the sobbing, the hitting, the yelling, the throwing objects, her insistence Dad was alive and had left her. There were also many precious moments; however, I never knew what I was in store for, and mood swings were swift and often.
I compare that to our visits now. Every visit is lovely. Simply lovely. I say hello to her and it takes her a couple of beats to recognize me. A smile spreads across her face, and she exclaims, “You came!” or “My baby!” Followed by a tight hug that neither of us wants to release.
She associates my arrival with leaving her residence. She asks, “Where are we going today?” It’s always the same, and I’m happy to repeat myself. “Would you like to go for a walk in the park?” “Oh, yes!” She exclaims, “I would really like that.”
After we do our lap at the park, which is becoming slower and shorter, I ask her if she’d like to get ice cream. “Oh, yes!” I order her a small cup of cookies and cream, and I’m well on my way to sampling each of the flavors at the Mexican paleteria: Ganzito, cafe, coco, mango, limon, and fruits I’m just now learning.
On the way home, we stop at Ingles supermarket. She likes to push the cart, very slowly, fondly picking up packages and handling them oh so carefully. Occasionally she’ll ask if she can have something, and I always say yes. Old age is not a time for boundaries. We generally get a package of Chips Ahoy and a package of almonds and a bouquet of a dozen red roses. Once home, she carefully takes the roses out of the bag, slowly trims each stem, and places them in a vase that I’ve filled with water. She enjoys the act of trimming and arranging, and seems surprised when she turns around and sees me there.
We crawl onto her bed and watch the Hallmark channel for an hour or so. We sit beside each other, holding hands. Sometimes she’ll lay down, insisting I keep the tv on. Sometimes I’ll bring a book and she’ll “read” her paper (sometimes right side up, sometimes upside down). Sometimes she’ll ask me to give her a manicure (but never with colored polish). Sometimes she’ll ask me to do her hair (I love French braiding it and twisting it about).
Every visit is peaceful. There are no outbursts, no violence, no yelling. Yes, she’s on more medication, and she seems content.
I’m learning to enjoy each visit for just that. A lovely day together. And I refrain from wondering if I made the right decision. Wondering if we could have this peaceful existence in the home we shared. Wondering if I could have eventually kept her safe at home. When I get ready to leave, she asks me if she can come with me. I tell her, “Not today.” She shrugs her shoulders, casts a glance downwards, and says “Okay.” I’m sure that my guilt over not bringing her “home” persists much longer than her accepting my answer and moving on.
Mom lives in the present. She’s not fretting about the past or debating over the future. I’ve been doing that for both of us, and with the help of an amazing grief counselor, I am learning not to. Baby steps.
17 thoughts on “Baby Steps”
Thank you for sharing this intimate part of your life with us, Lori. You are such a beautiful and loving daughter and are showing us along the way full, rich, confusing, and messy human experiences. Not many people could share this as eloquently and truthfully as you.
You are too kind, Kayla. Thank you. ❤
Lori- you are doing everything right. You are a wonderful daughter, truly an inspiration. Blessings to you and your mom.
Thank you, Kristina. Have been thinking of you lately and our sojourn to Cherokee a few years ago. Would love to do it again! ❤
Reading this tender post makes me feel both sad, and warmhearted , as you embrace your changing relationship and care for your mom. Thank you for sharing this intamacy,
Thank you, Tricia. I know this won’t last forever, so savoring every moment I can.
This is beautiful — and helpful to all of us as we all manage our own griefs and challenges. Thank you.
Thank you, LeDayne. ❤
Lori, I think of you and your Mom often and I’m glad to read you’re able to have these lovely visits together this summer. That’s fabulous to hear there are counselors that specialize in grief to help navigate these baby steps.
Thank you, Lisa!
I love love love the picture! You both look wonderful and happy! And I love you both. Prayers for you and Sybil!
Thank you, Debbie! ❤
So glad to read of your positive progress. Love your Mum’s hairstyle!
You two look so cute together. Thanks for the picture. Prayers to you and your Mom.
Thank you, Sally! ❤
Love the photo of the two of you as well as “living in the moment”. 🙂 At the end of the day the best thing we can do for ourselves and for those around us is to live in the moment, be and do the best we can do, love, care, support, etc. As a person with two sets of aging parents it is about balance and a WHOLE LOT of patience at times too. Happy Day – Enjoy!