I am 63, my mother is 90. I am still working. She lives near me in a retirement home with extra help. I see her everyday and see myself as her general coordinator rather than her caretaker.
Before I can feel connected to my mom I must make space for it.
This is after I have had some time to process my own grief and come to an acceptance of what is, her loss of her former self, and drop my own agendas, both emotional and domestic. This is only one sentence, but it is hard work. To feel connected, I must sit with her, and let everything go: the laundry, the grocery list, especially my own impatience or fatigue.
After that, when I can be in that place of openness and listening, magical things happen. Dorothy’s own ability to communicate with me about her inner life becomes clearer. She is laser like in her emotional clarity. She can communicate with her hands, words, sometimes clearly, sometimes not, with voice inflection, and with facial expression. I must remain present with her to receive these gifts. I feel an overwhelming love for her, and feel her love and connectedness to me. We both need and treasure this time together.
This ability to be open and present then can translate into the other times which are not so inherently transcendent, as when she needs help with the toilet clean up, and I can approach it with the same compassion and love. I have often said to her, “Mom I’m sure you have wiped my bottom in the past a lot more often than this, this is not a problem.”
I see my past experiences with her now through this lens of feeling like I truly know her now. How lucky I am that she was my mother! She is extremely practical, loving about people but not sentimental about things, never given to using guilt to get what she wants, but unafraid to say what she wants. There is never a hidden agenda with her. She wants me to stay with her, but understands that I must work, that I need time for myself, that I cannot always stay for dinner. She rides this fine balance with great dexterity and love. She has her own natural openness and she listens with her heart.
It calls on me to be a better person. If she can do this, in this very vulnerable place in her life, surely I can try to cultivate these traits as well. Surely I can get to the heart of what is important clearly, without excuses, whining, or hidden manipulations. Surely I can live my life in this way.
This complication in her life of having her brain slowly taken from her, has clarified who she is to me. I find I love her more powerfully than I thought possible to love anyone, I feel that love radiate to other relationships in my life, and I feel it radiate in me.