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my caring mom

my caring mom, essay by Judy Fox

by Judy
October 13, 2014

This morning a simple exchange between my mom and I. I thought she was sleeping and just gave her a kiss on her hand. She looked so peaceful. As I was leaving, she said, “Judy,” and I came over to her. She asked me how I had slept last night and then I asked her. Just a simple exchange that often, but not always happens in the morning. It was right before I went downstairs to go for a swim and I was left with this overwhelming feeling about my mom's care which has been like a golden strand running through my life. I thought that no matter how different I often felt from my mother - when younger sometimes wishing she were actually more like me, more introspective... still I have always known and felt her care. It’s been a fact that I often took for granted and even went unacknowledged, but it’s always been there. I think of my mom after a day of endless doings, after she took her bath, got into bed and could finally relax. The image of a woman so softly at home in bed symbolizing this caring mom whose arms enfolded me with love.

It’s funny how one can be so overcome by the slightest incident. I never read Marcel Proust’s “In Remembrance of things Past,” but I do know it begins with him tasting a madeleine cake dipped in tea which sets off a whole sequence of memories. In some ways this was similar…a small exchange setting off a sequence of unspoken feelings and memories.

More recently before my mother got ill and still in her early nineties, whenever I came down to visit, it was always a big event. She would be shopping and cooking for days on end in anticipation for my arrival. She would think of places for us to go. She wanted me to be happy and have a good time.

Now her care comes through at different times of the day. Sometimes she will express so much gratitude and tell me how fortunate she is – how much easier I make her life. Sometimes she will get upset because she doesn’t want to put me in this position of taking care of her. And at times she will express concern for how I will fare after she goes. I always reassure her, but still she will worry at times.

Being bed-bound and post stroke, feeling weak and helpless at times, it’s not easy and inevitably at times she is self-focused and needy. How could it not be? At times she will say I am not with her enough even though much of the time she is sleeping or dozing off.

So many different faces of Mom that I am getting accustomed to…some are difficult to bear like when she will express how unhappy she is. It doesn’t happen often but when it does I feel pretty helpless. I just stay with her and often, not always, it dissipates.

And still at times she is so funny. I don’t think I really appreciated this when I was younger. When you are young, at least speaking about myself, I was very serious in many ways - finding my own way and I didn’t particularly connect to my parent’s sense of humor. Coming from a Jewish background of course humor plays a big role in the culture. To be able to laugh at oneself, make other people laugh and just laughing together holds a high value. Now in my mother’s old age, and aging myself, I really do value her humor. I don’t know if she is funnier…probably not, but I am more receptive and remarkably she can still see the humor in life’s fluctuating circumstances.

The other day my mom thought she was dying and wanted to say good bye to me as well as relatives and friends. It wasn’t even that she wanted to die, but she thought it was happening. We convinced her that it wasn’t true. A bit later in the conversation, I was touching her leg and said it was very warm. She responded, “It’ll be cold soon!” I said in a very light voice, “Mom, you are being so morbid.” She burst out laughing and so did I. How can one laugh when the topic is of course very serious, but she can and often does and so do I. And so we do laugh in spite of the pain and discomfort - we laugh with unrestrained delight. This too is an expression of my mother’s care.

 

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