I took a walk with Mom last night on the little path behind her building. She made it around the circle three times and then needed to sit down, so we rested in a pair of rocking chairs tucked under the porch roof. There was a nice breeze from the ceiling fan above us. Mom said, “That breeze feels so good!” I didn’t point upward at the fan; I think she thought it was the wind.
And that made me sad. I don’t know why that should be the thing that made me sad, after two visits and lots of interaction yesterday. But it did. She couldn’t take in her surroundings enough to notice a ceiling fan, or if she could, she forgot about the fan almost as soon as she noticed it. This isn’t new, it’s just a reminder that her cognitive skills are slipping away.
I asked myself as I rocked, “What do you want, Carolyn? What do you want with her that you don’t have?”
My answer came fast and clear: I want a meaningful relationship with my mom. I want a relationship that’s still growing, that feeds both of us, instead of draining me and barely sustaining her. She is receding, sliding deeper into her own reality. Today she can’t acknowledge the fan. One day, she won’t acknowledge me.
I miss our old relationship. I like(d) my mom. She’s sitting right beside me, and she’s gone; both of those statements are true. I hold those opposing realities in my heart every time I see her. The person I know now is still kind, generous, and compassionate. She is still, in her essence, my mother. But the sharp edges are wearing down.
She nailed me last week, though, when she was over at my house looking through old photographs. We emptied a big box of family photos on the dining room table and lost ourselves in four generations of family portraits and vacation shots. When it was time to clean off the table I said, “Mom, how are we going to organize all this and put it away?”
She looked at me with a sly grin and said, “I don’t know. That’s your problem.”
Oh, Mommy. You are still there!