I was walking my mother around our driveway on our evening stroll the other night and marveled, not for the first time, at how much weight she is able to lean onto my arm. My husband usually walks on her other side, and Mom, intent on taking as much weight as possible off her bad knee, manages to place what we estimate to be a fluctuating load of between 20 and 40 pounds on each of our supporting arms. Sometimes we feel like we are practically dragging her, but her feet keep moving and she gets out of breath so at least she is getting some aerobic exercise! Her arms have become very strong as a result of leaning so hard on us; somewhat in the same way one becomes strong when crutching (a fact I learned when I learned to use crutches for the first time after breaking a small bone in my left foot; I remember swinging past my son and feeling flattered when he said, "Wow, Mom, you are actually getting some definition in the muscles in your arms!")
At the same time my mother's arms have become strong by leaning, I have become strong by supporting. My biceps often ache after I have taken Mom for a walk.
I've recorded at this blog the fact that I've been through another season of struggle against resentment toward Mom. Accepting the mom I now have and releasing the mom she is no longer able to be is a process that has to be renegotiated pretty regularly. But this morning during devotion time, it occurred to me that I don't give my mom enough credit for the grace and patience she often exhibits. She has learned to eat when her meals arrive rather than when she is in the mood to eat. She bathes when I say it is time for a bath. She receives her daily exercise when I arrive at her door with fifteen minutes to spare, and I confess I'm not always kind and empathetic if she is not pleased to hear that she must get up--now--and go for a walk! The ability to submit to another's rule requires grace, and though Mom sometimes protests; she has learned this kind of submission.
Thinking about the ways in which my mother has become adept at coping with the life of being a care recipient has shifted my perspective and helped me to release a measure of the resentment with which I've been struggling. In short, I'm allowing myself to harbor respect for the grace God has allowed my mother for this season of her life and to recognize it as a different kind of strength.