The two of use were seated in front of the doctor when the doctor said, “Your mother (as if she weren’t sitting right there) has a premature aging of the brain.” And that was it. That was all that was said. I entered into a state of mental block, almost shock. “God Almighty – now what?” And the doctor said: “Now…patience.”
That was a number of years ago, and I still remember that moment when I had the certainty that if there is, as we say, “a before” and “an after,” this was the after of the before. My father had passed away several months earlier, and, little by little, my mother started to go too. My relationship with my partner ended up disappearing, too, hurt by love, diffused and confused. At that moment, I thought that patience was only one of the many allies I was going to need to take on that long road.
That’s when the phase that I call “Who is Who?” started. I needed a map in order to take on that road, but I lacked a lot of information. Yes, this is the beginning of something, but who can I count on? How do I manage this? What is the end? And the most important one: How will I know what to do? I began to investigate: about the condition, needs, resources, legal requirements, and how to be a good caregiver.
I’m not going to be able to do it, I’ve always been attached to my mother’s apron strings; I look independent, but I can’t let go of her. How am I going to tell my mother what she can or cannot do?
Oh, and how would a good map serve me if I don’t know who’s with me on this trip?
I began to talk with other people who were in the same situation, and I started to become aware of the sheer number of worlds, of relationships, that exist. I believe that that’s when I started to feel closer to my mother. We were strong: that much was obvious.
…In the meantime, she would ask me, “Do you have children?” I would say “no”, and she would show me a picture of myself when I was a kid, saying, “Look, I do – I have a daughter.”
We were strong: that much was obvious. But…who were we?
If there are parts of me that exist only because we are, because the relationship between the two of us has made it possible, what parts of me was I loosing as her sickness progressed?
I was losing physically and mentally. I was losing my surroundings. I was losing my mother.
I turned into my mother. I lost myself as I lost her. I lost myself in a gradual encounter with the woman sitting in front of me, and the person I found was someone I still had to get to know. She spoke of her daughter, of her husband, as she wouldn’t have done if she were still able to think that I was her daughter. She spoke woman-to-woman without needing to exercise the power that she had being my mother. I saw my mother with mature eyes, thanks to the fact that she made me mature by showing me my own photograph and in that moment, I could disassociate myself from her, not to disappear, but to be more.
They were times of discovery. Some of them were good and some of them were bad, but all of them were intense.
I discovered silence, that place where I go because it’s where she and I best expressed ourselves. I discovered caresses, that channel of feelings that always have the floodgates open. I discovered the value of a good almond candy ice cream, whose paradoxical flavours and textures took my mother to paradoxical times and places. I discovered loneliness…
I was loneliness. That’s why I couldn’t let my mother go. That’s why I stuck to her so strongly.
Loneliness came to stay and I almost didn’t realise it. It was a loneliness that came as a friend, and then, over time, turned into the perfect excuse. Noise, out! Interference, out! It was a loneliness that only my mother could enter, where only my mother managed to make me relevant, where I forgot that I had matured.
My mother went, leaving me alone with my loneliness, one week after I whispered into her ear: “Go. I can do this by myself now.” She educated me to be independent, to be strong, and I forgot. When I remembered, when I remembered with my body and mind, when people around me reminded me….I let her go. And because she loved me so much, she didn’t go until she saw that I was ready.
They say that, in this life, we only have one mother. I had the good fortune of seeing the whole woman who, on top of everything else, was my mother. – the woman who IS my mother. And I am that woman.
My mother showered me with the rain that fell that day as she settled down inside me that 20th of May of 2004, when everyone else had left and there was only her and I, in that pine grove; enjoying the breeze which had melded with the scent of the roses from the wreaths and which gave life to its ribbons of colours.
We always did know how to enjoy ourselves.
Carol Westerman, Spain