|Mom's Easter Tree|
I am a former teacher, and no longer have access to classroom bulletin boards. Nowadays my mother's apartment receives the benefit of my pent-up longing to decorate something--anything-- with seasonal cheer. This is a happy situation for my mother, because one of the blessed aspects of her dementia (in its pleasant manifestation) is her sincere appreciation for anything lovely. She rhapsodizes over her Easter tree:
Mom: Linda, don't you think this tree is just absolutely beautiful?And so we go, repetitively but happily. Providing Mom with pretty things is something I do well.
Linda: (modestly) I'm glad you like it.
Mom: (has forgotten Linda decorated the tree, and misinterprets modesty for lack of enthusiasm) Well! Don't YOU like it? (accusing look)
Linda: I...I'm the one who put it there.
Mom: Oh. Well. Linda, don't you think this tree is just absolutely beautiful?
But here's what I'm not good at: I do not like to sit down and visit with my mother. Her time on this earth is coming to a close, and the inevitability of losing her oppresses me. Connecting with her emotionally is painful, because it reminds me of what I've lost and of how difficult that final blow will be. In her happy phases she stares at my face adoringly, as though I am her sun, her moon, and her stars, and this is uncomfortable. I feel almost angry when she chatters along very nearly like her old self, expressing concern for me as she used to before the polarity of energy between us reversed so that I am now the one who takes care of her. She has no memory of her irrational times; the 911 call (because I didn't hear her request for crackers), her unjust sarcasm, or the vindictiveness she expresses when I insist she bathe or take a walk. I sometimes feel like a child who has been abused; longing for the parent's love but wary of mood swings, with a layer of anger underneath.
But I am not a child, and I have not been abandoned. My mother is not abusive, she is ill. And I am aware of the dangers of burying my heart (see yesterday's post). Hiding from my mother will make the final parting more difficult, not easier, and repressing emotion can be harmful to one's health. And so this evening I pulled myself up by the emotional bootstraps, and went into Mom's apartment just to visit.
She looked at me adoringly, as though I were her sun, her moon, her stars. She chattered along very nearly like her old self, expressing concern for me. I didn't recoil, or make an excuse to leave. I allowed myself to feel loved, and expressed love to Mom in return.
I will sure miss my beloved mother when she is gone, but I don't have to miss her yet. I pray for strength of heart to face the emotion of still loving and being loved by my mother.
"My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart,
And He is my portion forever"