Perception Is Everything – Day 171

November 19, 2010 1 Comment


365 Days to a Balanced Life Journey – Day 171


Quote of the Day

“Love is not blind; it simply enables one to see things others fail to see.”

There are few places more depressing than a dementia ward of a nursing home.  That is where I spent my day visiting my mother.  It is mind numbing, sad and humorous all at the same time.  I used to think my Dad was joking when he said “You can live too long”.  I see now that he wasn’t.  This is a reality we all have to come to terms with and how we want to end our lives should be a well thought out plan as important as our will and life insurance.

For some reason today was like a gong show on the ward though.  People were wandering aimlessly looking for their abandoned walkers, there were wheelchair crashes, confusing discussions and many cases of mistaken identity.  There are always clusters of wheelchairs and walkers to navigate and some of these people just do not have the same spacial judgment that they used to so they work diligently at trying to get their walker through a six inch space.  .

I took part in the sing-a-long with only a few interruptions, one quite lengthy as they tried to get George to swallow whatever was starting to travel down his chin (I couldn’t look). I attempted to help the staff by persuading Marion not to steal everyone else’s tea (this went on throughout tea time).  Until then I thought Marion was pretty lucid but then she started telling me stories that clearly were in her imagination.  I also had to calm her down because she was angry that when she speaks to some of these people they just stare back at her (my mother being one of them).  I explained that many of these people have lost their ability to speak and that she should not take it personally.  She wasn’t buying it.  In truth,  I should probably take my own advice as I tend to take my mom’s silences and stares personally. 

I was mistaken for a fellow nurse (by a patient who thinks she is a nurse),  a long lost daughter (arms wide open from her wheelchair waiting to embrace me – not my mother because sadly I’m not even sure my mom knows I am her long lost daughter). In the end when I was rushing for a ferry I got trapped on the floor unable to remember the code with no “real” nurse in sight.  I had about twenty sets of eyes following me, some offering suggestions as I searched desperately for someone to give me the valuable information that would spring me from this hell.

These visits are difficult on me.  It starts the day prior as I steel myself for what is ahead.  Poor mom only manages a few coherent words a visit and those are usually followed by a blank stare and much Parkinson like twitching.  She does however seem a little more animated with the staff and fellow patients which makes me wonder; why them and not me?  Of course I have always wondered that about my mother. 

My mother was a difficult woman.  There I said it.  My entire life I made supreme efforts to gain her approval and maybe get some of that thing I kept hearing about; unconditional love.  I worked hard at my relationship with my mom, always careful what I said, making sure my husband(s) were careful about what they said and always tried to do what she wanted when I visited.  This was usually sitting and listening to her bitch about my father or grocery shopping.  I was also overcompensating with visits, gifts and phone calls that none of my  brothers thought necessary to do to the extent I did (they were right by the way).  I found that most of my adult life I catered to my parents needs thinking they deserved more than what they got from all of us kids and felt personally responsible for their happiness for some reason.

I made regular visits to their Island home at great expense of time and money far more than I wanted to.  When their health started to suffer I found myself there every 10 days to 2 weeks taking them to doctor’s appointments and grocery shopping etc.  I made sure I called them almost on a daily basis.  I don’t want to sound like it was all a burden and inconvenience because there were times I enjoyed myself.  I had a close relationship with my dad up until his death 2 years ago and as close of a relationship as I could with my emotionally shutdown mother.  I understood my mother well (she never got me though) so I tried to anticipate her needs and got very good at avoiding many topics.  I tried to bring her some joy by exposing her to my children as much as possible (she was a good grandmother).  The bottom line; I spent many years trying to make her happy and never succeeded.  Of course I know logically it was not my responsibility but emotionally I could not stop thinking I could do more. 

When she was first diagnosed with dementia almost 4 years ago, I fully expected that my life in the future would be daily visits to her in a nursing home close to where I live.  However, my brothers made the decision to put her in the nursing home near her home on the island where only one of the four of us lives.    It is a five hour roundtrip for me to get there so I try to go twice a month.  I suffer great guilt for not seeing her very often while she languishes in this nursing home unable to feed herself or even scratch her nose for that matter.  It is excruciating to watch her die this slow death and not be able to bring her much comfort.

In the past several months I have finally come to terms with my relationship with my mother. Even before the disease took her ability to speak there were long awkward silences and uncomfortable partings.   There was no clearing of the air conversation as I knew from a young age it would have to be my perception of the relationship that would have to change in order for me to be at peace with her. 

As with every relationship I needed to discover the hidden lessons I was supposed to learn from my mother.  Although my mother taught me many things in my life and without her as a role model I would not have been able to provide such a comfortable and stable home for my children, the most important by far was forgiveness.  Like everyone, she did the best she could with knowledge she had.

One Comments to “Perception Is Everything – Day 171”
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