From Thirty Days of Truth
My mom and I did not have a good relationship...ever. She was a self-righteous, judgmental, cruel, verbally abusive woman, incapable of participating in a loving, warm relationship except for maybe with my father, who was equally dysfunctional. When I married, I spent years driving a wedge between my former life and my new life in order to gain some distance, breathing room and perspective while I worked on altering the scripts in my head from negative to not-so-negative to sometimes even positive. It was the only way I knew how to insulate myself from the constant familial chaos in order to grow and become the relatively sane person I am today.
My father died of lung cancer in 1992. My mother was unable to afford their home, so when she sold it she moved with us to Arkansas in 1993. Within a year, she packed her belongings in a trailer and headed back to Las Vegas to be closer to my sister, Kim, and her family.
After intermittent contact with her during the following seven years, in 2001 I received a phone call from my mother about some problems she was having with her car. A trip to Las Vegas to help her out eventually led to an evaluation and diagnosis of dementia a year and half later. During that time period, we moved my mom in with us again...first into the one bedroom apartment we rented in Incline Village, NV, then back to the much larger house we left in Arkansas.
My mother had not changed. In fact, because of the dementia she was worse. Angry, resentful, suspicious, paranoid, insulting. She complained to our social worker that we were abusive and were trying to steal all her social security money. She threatened to leave while we were at work and move to Florida to live with her friend or move back to Las Vegas. Our social worker reassured us that all of this was part of the dementia. I started out biting my tongue most of the time, then other times trying to reason with her. Then there were the not-able-to-bite-my-tongue times. I spent many evening hours walking up and down our very long driveway, taking deep breaths, letting go of the frustration, fighting back tears, trying to calm down and put things back in perspective.
Inside, I tried to defend my intermittent bad behavior. I was working long hours in a stressful job and I was tired. I really didn't want to move back to Arkansas, away from my son, daughter-in-law, grandson and new granddaughter, and I think I blamed my mother's illness, in part, for having to move back anyway. I was resentful that I felt forced to trade in my sporty little black two-door car for a four-door because my mom had difficulty getting in and out of it. I had given up all of my privacy, my lifestyle, everything for my MOTHER! During those times, I felt like a shallow, selfish, incorrigible, inconsolable child, exactly the feelings I had worked so hard to rid myself of for so many years.
In June 2003 my mother died unexpectedly. Tom and I were in a small private waiting room at the hospital when the nurse gave us the news. My first thought was I should have been a better daughter. I shouldn't have argued with her because she didn't understand. I shouldn't have moved her away from my sister and her kids, with whom she was closest. I shouldn't have resented her presence in my life.
I think I have begun to forgive myself for my periodic resentment and angry words, but I still have those days when I feel I should have tried harder to be more of a grown-up.
Friday, January 7, 2011
From Thirty Days of Truth