This morning, about 12:30 am, my mom called me to her bed. She asked me to climb inside the covers with her. It's a small bed and I wouldn't fit so I laid on top as near as I could, holding her. A small voice in my head was all about going back to my own bed and sleep but I laid there and let her talk.
She rambles a lot now. A lot of it doesn't make sense but there's this thing underneath it all. It's about loving. It's about being there no matter what. As she rambled, telling me about a gift from mothers to daughters and about relationships, a part of me waited for the poignant wisdom that might be coming from the edge. The rest of me simply surrendered to giving her a voice in a safe space.
The wisest thing she said was that men are full of rocks. I should love with all my heart and soul the parts I can and not worry about what I couldn't reach because of the rocks. It makes me smile. I love things I can think when I'm frustrated, that help me gain perspective. This one's a good one. Is it a gift,? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But I'll remember lying in her bed, holding her and loving her and listening. Perhaps that's the gift.
I am in the process of sorting. Spending so much time with my mom in the last few months I've started to see bits and pieces where I've taken on some piece that is really hers. Much of it is complicated, intertwined like the brambles in the woods in the depth of summer when all you see is green. Ideas around men and sex and relationships and beauty. I'm not really sure where to start sorting and releasing. I'm not sure it's really time. I just know my life is not only a tapestry of my own making but I can see where many of the threads are generational. The tapestry wanders down through the ages, each generation adding their own threads but much of the foundation being something old and long forgotten.
I feel guilty when I want to take care of me. When I go take a walk rather than being here in the home ready for when my mom needs me. I feel guilty when she wakes in the night and my first priority is getting her back to sleep so I can climb back into my own bed. I feel guilty when I let my mind settle on my own needs rather than hers. It's not always been that way but the concept is well known to me. I hide things I do for myself because I feel guilty in saying I want this or I want that. Somehow I don't feel I deserve to take up space. I need to justify all my wants and needs and desires. I can't simply let them be what they are.
My mom was telling me this morning about how she just wanted to be pretty and she wanted to be loved by someone who thought she was pretty. It was the other piece of the puzzle related to my dad and how obsessed he was with her being pretty. And his final letter to her asking her to lose weight so she'd be pretty again and he'd love her forever.
Me, I gained weight so I wouldn't be pretty. I didn't want men whistling as I walked by. I didn't want the attention. I wanted to feel safe. Pretty wasn't safe for me.
I remember when I was a young girl asking my Grandmother if I was pretty. She told me if I was pretty when I was young, I'd be ugly when I was old. If I was ugly when I was young, I'd be pretty when I was old. I never really understood what she meant. Besides, maybe that beauty shouldn't be the goal. But look what a mess avoiding it has been with the women in our family.
Gifts from mothers to daughters. They aren't all pretty.
What is the truth of you right now?
I am suspended on a tightrope between life and death. It's not my own death but my mom's on the one side. On the other side is the life I have put on hold in order to be witness to her death. Dying by kidney disease is a long slow process. The landscape is ever changing. And, I'm watching my mom slowly come undone. First, it was her love of gardening. In the last couple of years, she reached the point she could no longer muster the energy to take care of her yard.
Then it was her business. She tried until it was right in front of her. Until we told her it wasn't working, she wasn't able. And, she let go of the business she'd built and the life she'd created. She gave the business to my daughter and she moved in with my husband and me.
At first, she enjoyed the outdoors but when the weather turned cool she no longer went out. She was too cold all the time. And, now her mind is slowly slipping into the other world. Sometimes she's lucid and sometimes she wanders. Her words don't make sense. I answer questions like, "Who's taking care of the lambs?" No, we don't have any but I made up an answer anyway.
Then this morning, she said she had to go to the bathroom. In the midst of getting her onto the commode, she just left. There was no one home. We managed to get her on and off again but it was exhausting back-breaking work. I checked her pulse in the midst of it to see if she was still alive. Thump, thump, thump. Steady as can be. But no one home.
A few minutes later she was asking for pudding for breakfast.
So what is the truth right now? The truth is I am holding love and grief and fear and exhaustion. I take each step as I can. I do what I can do. And I give myself permission to not set any goals. To not be making any great plans. Because I don't know if she'll be gone this afternoon or next summer. All I know is right now, this is all there is. Everything else can wait.
Photo credit: Jason Williard (1983-2016)