Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Different Kind of Strength

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.   


  1. My mom was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's at age 53 and I was 21. I still to this day remember when my dad called and told me. I was devastated but even then I had no idea what it really meant. I was in the denial stage for a couple years and only just a few months ago started to accept it. I live far away from my parents so it is easier to do that then those siblings who are still near home. One thing rang true in your blog. How it is so hard to let go of the woman she was and accept who she is now. She isn't my mom. I see parts of my mom in her but I know those will fade in time like everything that is already missing. I don't talk about it often with people. It really feels like nobody understands. The ask "how is your mom?" and all i say is "she is okay". What am I suppose to say? That she is no longer my mother. That my mom is gone. That there is no hope of ever getting her back. That my children which haven't even been born will not get to meet my real mom. That when I sob in my husbands arms not even he can truly understand because he never knew my real mom. She was gone before we met. It's so frustrating. Thanks for being a spot I could get this all out. For being someone who understands even though I have never met you and have only read your blog. Thank you.

  2. Maquel, you stop by here and vent any time you want. I'm so sorry for your grief. I know early onset Alzheimer's is even more difficult to cope with than other forms of dementia. May God comfort you in your sorrow, and I pray you find comfort in the knowledge that He will provide both you and your mother what you need on each step of this difficult journey.