Caring for a parent

Highs and Lows

I’ve had some really good moments lately; moments of love and kindness and patience towards Mama. I have read to her and had real conversations. We have laughed together. I have good-naturedly teased her as I swept up the dry hot cereal granules she dribbled from the thought-it-was-empty box onto the kitchen floor, continuing to spill it even as I sweep. I am empathetic toward the fear and depression that near deafness and near blindness create, and gladly been her ears and eyes. I have let myself be in the moment and not in a hurry to move on to the next thing. These are the times that I sense I will get beyond this time and be grateful for the opportunity, and know that I was a good daughter who enhanced rather than diminished the quality of the end of my mother’s life.

The good moments, sometimes whole days, are sprinkled randomly among the days and moments I think I just can’t do it another minute. I want to go home, except I am home. I don’t want to repeat myself ten times, trying alternate words to make her hear what I am saying. I don’t want to tell her what’s on her dinner plate that she can’t see and watch her chase a bit of chicken around with her fork and then bring it empty to her mouth. I don’t want to stop reading after every other sentence to explain what she can’t follow or didn’t hear a non-critical word of. I can’t tell her what it means, because reading so slowly and stopping so often, I mostly have no clue. I don’t want to discuss something trivial in the local paper, because I don’t care, especially when she is asking me to join her in self-righteousness. I want her to rejoice in what she can do instead of the constant depression about what she can’t that pulls me into the depths with her. I want to go to sleep without hearing her breathing over the static of the baby monitor by my bed.

I want to sit on the sofa with pizza and wine and watch the Golden Globes on Sunday night and not feel guilty that she is behind me eating leftovers alone at the table. And I want her not to choose Jodie Foster’s speech to tell me she didn’t call her caregiver about new scheduling options while I was away that day because she couldn’t remember why she was supposed to call. Especially when Jodie is poignantly talking about her mother with dementia, hoping that her mother is still there somewhere behind her blue eyes and will magically know in her soul that she is loved if she tells her three times in a row.

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