Losing My Independence


Watching time ebb away

As I watch my mother, aging, right before my eyes, I am struck by the different emotions, I live with on a daily basis.

Since I moved her into my home, a little over a year ago, I’ve battled. I battled my own anger, guilt for being angry, and sadness.

She’s one of those stubborn, old people. Yes, we’ve all had experience with them, and some are related. I watch her, as she loses ground, and she fights me in the process. There are times, I try to escape, what I am witnessing, but I can’t. I know, what is inevitable.

She rails against me, with every doctor’s visit, new diagnosis, medicine, vitamin, change, she must make. In order to keep the vehicle going. She has an addiction to chocolate, which I must monitor. I’ve told her that I’m her Warden. At this she laughs. If she buys it, she’ll eat it all. When she gets sick from it, she tells me, “I don’t like that.” As if it’s really the chocolate which made her sick. I remind her, “Mom, it’s not the candy or the chips. It’s the fact that you’re compulsive when you eat, and you don’t stop yourself. No matter what it is, you’ll get sick, if you don’t ration it.” She sarcastically answers, “Yes, doctor.”

She picks her skin raw. I watch her, as she picks on her face. It annoys me. She was just diagnoses with skin cancer, which she has to have removed this month. I tell her, “Mom stop that picking!” She tells me, “I’ll do what I want. It’s my face!” “Ok,” I say. “Abuse your body all you want. Eat chocolate until your sick, and pick your skin right off!”

Then I feel the guilt. I wonder why I don’t just walk away, before I get angry. I realize that I’m upset that she can’t do things for herself. I know at times, I feel resentment. This mixed with love, gives me a feeling of sadness. I feel it as I wake up in the morning.

Already responsible for so many in my life. I realized I have been a caregiver, all of my life. It’s not a role, that has been given to me, since my mother became older. She had given me this role, as a child. I didn’t know anything different.

Then I married a man, who acted as if I was his caregiver. At one of our group therapy sessions, his counselor asked him, “Why do you allow your wife to do everything for you?” His answer; “Because she’s so good at it.” This is when I felt anger. Isn’t part of a marriage to make your spouse feel secure in the marriage? But then, I believe, that I attracted this to me. I still remember him telling me that “he felt he loved me, even though he didn’t know me. But when he saw me with my younger brother, and the compassion which I had, he really fell in love.” Now I can understand, that this must have been a need inside of him, which drew him to me. The need for a mother. A care-giver. Thus, the role was defined, from the start of the relationship.

I suddenly come to the realization that it “losing our independence,” isn’t isolated to an aging parent. I don’t feel as if I’ve ever had mine. Always being responsible for another. The load of care has been on my shoulders since I was a young girl. I’m amazed at how all of the trauma in my childhood forced me to take on the care of my household.

Just yesterday, as I was painting my walls, my mother looked on. “Is that fun?” She asked. “Well, it becomes tedious, I told her. “Do you want to help?” “Oh no! I can’t do that!” She said. “Wait a minute, mom. Have you ever painted, before?” It dawned on me, that although my mother bought a home, when we were kids. I never saw her make any improvements. “No.” She said. “Your brother did.” “Well, so did I,” I said. “I painted my bedroom.” Then I remembered. We had done different things in the house, but she was the spectator. She never did anything. Yes, my mother never seemed involved in anything. So why would I expect her to want to do anything now? It doesn’t stop me from trying though.

I’m older and wiser now. I balance the need to give care, where/when needed. I remember a psychologist who had spoken about this with our children. “Let them do what they are capable of doing.”I apply this principle with my own mother. She has become a child.

The other day, my daughter heard us and commented. “I was laughing when you confronted grandma about eating all that chocolate. She sounded like a little kid.” “Well,” I said, “she is like a kid. She doesn’t eat a meal, when she gorges herself with junk, and then she lies about it, when I see it.”

I know, I get upset to handle all of this, and some days, I feel like throwing in the towel. Especially as she prattles on and on, about moving to her own place. I think it’s abusive to allow someone like her to live alone. And sometimes, I think, she really doesn’t realize that I have to help her with everything. If she was to be alone, she wouldn’t survive. And then, I’m tempted to allow her to try, just so she can accept what is happening. But that is replaced with a deep compassion, for her circumstances.

Last night, I had a dream. I remember it vividly. I believe this is the Lord’s way of giving me an even deeper experience, and understanding of my mother.

I had my daughter with me, and I was struggling in my body, to do simple things. Walking, talking. We were in a pool, and I was watching her and friends, throwing a ball. A man handed it to me, and I tried to throw it. My hand went limp, as I tried, in vain, to throw and watched the ball drop in front of me. “What is wrong with me?” I thought. I used to be good at throwing a ball. It must be in the wrong hand, since I’m left-handed. I switched arms. I was getting irritated with the man, although it wasn’t his fault. “Give it to me again!” I yelled. I was determined to throw it. I tried with my left hand, and again, it fell flat.

I saw my daughter and her friends look at me, with eyes of sympathy. I just couldn’t grasp, that I had lost this skill. It is the simplest thing in the world. My body just wouldn’t cooperate with what my brain was telling it to do.

As I woke, I pondered this dream. I felt the Lord gently speaking to me. “This is what your mother deals with, each day. Her anger, is not at you, but at her lack of independence.” I was filled with a deep compassion and a new feeling of empathy came over me. “Yes, Lord, I understand now, how difficult this is for her.”

It must be very similar to someone who has had a stroke, or forced to live in a wheelchair. A loss of things, which they had known, all their lives. It is a process, akin to grieving the loss of a loved one. To know we had something, and lose it. And then have to rely on others for their help. I’m not so sure, that I won’t be like her one day. Although I think, I may be a little kinder. Constantly talking about my plans. No matter how silly, they may sound. This is the way we are to live. The Lord tells us that, “For lack vision, my people perish.” He didn’t tell us that this is age-specific.

So, I don’t try to rob my mother of her vision. This is the only thing which she has left. Although, each day, when she starts to talk about this, I tell her, “Mom, this is the day which the Lord has made. We are to rejoice and be glad in it. ” “Now how can you be glad in this day, when you are concerned about the future. Let’s enjoy each day, as we live it.” This seems to help her change the topic….at least for a few minutes.”

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