I have excuses. She isn't nice to me sometimes. She feels rebellious in much the same way a teenager resents a parent who is strict. For example, Mom doesn't remember why I insist she gets dressed by lunchtime. She feels she should be left alone and treated like an adult, and if she wants to have a "pajama day," she should be allowed to do so. Trouble is she would like every day to be a pajama day, and when she doesn't dress she doesn't bathe. That daily sponge bath is a necessity.
So I insist. And she resents. And after awhile she forgets why she resents me but she still feels the negative emotion, and unfortunately she does not forget I am the one to blame for it.
Today she wasn't mean, and she didn't make little deprecating remarks to me as she sometimes does, but one of her comments triggered my irritation. On the surface it doesn't sound like it should have upset me, but I was having a bad day from stresses unrelated to Mom, and when she said reproachfully, "It's too bad you can't spend some time with me," I felt angry.
I said, "Spend some time with you? Spend some TIME with you? All I do is spend time with you and on your behalf!" I then listed all I'd done for her so far that morning (including a time of focused conversation).
She listened calmly and with no sign of remorse or empathy. When I finished she fixed me with a stern, maternal gaze and said, "I have a question. What do you do for entertainment when you aren't yelling at me?"
It's ok if you are giggling a bit now as you read this. I'm smiling--albeit ruefully--myself.
As a caregiver I expect more of myself. I expect I should be always loving and patient. I should never lose my temper, or speak harshly to my mother (even though she is not at all helpless in such situations, as the exchange above shows). This attitude that because I am the caregiver I ought to be perfect reminds me of some lines from the movie You've Got Mail.
Meg Ryan's character apologizes: "I was upset and I was horrible."A little of that sort of arrogance is at work when I expect perfection of myself while granting my mom full indemnity because she has Alzheimer's. Truth of the matter is, neither of us is sin-free. Mom was not perfect prior to her Alzheimer's, and her disease is not to blame for every instance of bad behavior since her diagnosis (although I do my very best to empathize and allow her plenty of leeway because she suffers from dementia).
Tom Hanks' character takes the blame: "I was horrible."
Meg replies: "True. But I have no excuse."
Tom says: "Whereas I am a horrible person and have no choice but to be horrible, is that what you're saying?"
And, anyone who's read my devotional for caregivers is already aware I am far from perfect myself (the Lord led me to be transparent regarding my shortcomings in order to offer comfort to other caregivers who share the same sort of struggles).
God is gracious to both Mom and me. Both of us require His grace and forgiveness, Mom no less now that she is fighting a battle with a disease that has robbed her memory, and I more now than ever before.
We all stumble along the way. If a person never speaks hurtful words...then he has achieved perfection--James 3:2 The Voice (VOICE)