I had to come back to this topic and add a Part 2 because several of my friends objected to part of my blog and after thinking about it I have to agree wholeheartedly. In my recent blog “Who is the Parent??” I wrote, “I am only a custodial parent. A taking-care-of parent” I was reminded that in taking care of my Mom I am much more than that. I do not just take care of the everyday mundane things like meals, laundry, medication, trips to doctor’s offices etc etc. No, I am really much more than that. Not that I relish this role, it just comes with the job of looking after someone you love so much and someone you want the very best for. Not only am I am “custodial parent” but I am also the guardian of her emotional life, her psychological state. I am the mother whisperer! I am the soother when she is anxious, or upset. I am the one who sets each day out for her – telling her what will happen that day – what appointments we have, where i have to go, who is coming in to stay with her. I often have to have what I call Mother-Mother talks with her when I have to go over what she needs to be able to do to stay at home with me – like drink her water, exercise, be able to get to the bathroom, etc etc. I recently had to have a very heart to heart talk with her when she didn’t call me or push her life line button after she had fallen because she didn’t want to bother me.
Mom is very likely depressed although she would never admit it. She is often despondent and talks about how she feels useless, and worthless. She is in a lot of discomfort with the effects of the stroke she had many years ago that are now getting worse. She often cries, moans, tells me she doesn’t want to be here. It is at these times I have to step in like she used to do for me many years ago and try to instill hope, worth and love into her battered self. It is not easy to watch her like this and I think back to the many years I struggled and what she must of felt and struggled with herself, as she only wanted the best for me, just like I want for her.
I am the encourager. I bring her flowers either from the store or from my garden. I bring or make her treats to encourage her to eat. I watch movies, TV programs with her that I really don’t like to keep her company. I listen, I hug, I tell jokes. I buy her an new outfit. I bring her a book she might like. As she gets more and more frail it is becoming harder and harder to find things to bring meaning to her life.
Mom and I are connected very intricately. Our emotions are all tangled up together like the many tentacles of two octopuses intertwined. If I am upset about something, Mom gets upset. If Mom is upset, I get upset. We set each other off, alarm bells ringing. If I am upset about something I have to be so careful not to let her know. Thank goodness for my “girlcave” in the basement where I can go and cry and scream and pray and Mom cannot come or hear me. It is truly my sanctuary, my place of refuge where I crawl into my yellow easy chair and imagine I am in the arms of God. There is a song I often listen to by a christian music group called Casting Crowns. It is called “Just Be Held”. It is a call by God to just come and be held when times are overwhelming and too hard to bear.
During this time of being an emotional support to Mom I have to try very hard to take a step back and not be intertwined with her. I need to be separate in order to relate to her in a way that does not bring in past hurts, anger, disappointment etc. This is difficult because it is so easy to fall back into old patterns and old feelings. For me that time has to be set aside and I need to focus on what Mom needs in a pure and simple way. In the three years Mom has been with me, God has healed many of those hurts, anger and disappointments. They have not entirely disappeared but it’s like there is a glass wall up between them and my present relationship with my Mom. Her sharp comments, her occasional hurtful words do not have the same effect on me anymore. I can only say that this is healing from God and I am so thankful for this. To know that when Mom passes on, I will have no regrets is truly a priceless gift from God.
So yes, I am much more than a “custodial parent” to my Mom. I am her encourager, her soother, her comforter, her reassurance, her security, her needs filler, her information giver, her window on the world, really, I AM her world….
……..just like when I was little she was MY world. And the wheels of life keep turnin’.