life stories

the center of the universe is the brain

Archive for the month “November, 2009”

In Absentia

Just over a year ago, Mother broke her hip after straightening the downspout on the gutter at the back of the house. A routine moment followed by a life-changing moment.

Of all the people involved in her care over the last year, I am probably the very least engaged. I’m on the fringe mostly willingly and probably only because I live 5,000 away in Alaska. Alternately I feel guilty and relieved. If I lived nearby, my life would be consumed with taking care of Mom, fretting over her state of mind, trying to make everything okay. That’s just the relationship we had.

I struggle with my sense of responsibility, remember our jokes about sending her to “Shady Pines.” Neither of us ever thought this time would come: when she could no longer live alone and depended on others for her care. This situation is what I think of as her worst nightmare.

Suddenly it occurred to me that I’m wrong. I’m making assumptions. A year ago, Mom was independent, still doing everything for herself. In fact, insisting upon doing everything for herself. She refused to call my sister for so much as a ride for an appointment to have her cataracts removed. She had to do everything for herself, a behavior I inherited and battle daily.

She has lost that level of independence. She is dependent on others for her meals. She no longer has to take care of her home. She doesn’t drive down to the Post Office to pick up the mail. “How terrifying to lose so much,” I thought.

Her mind is intact. She remembers everyone and everything. She battles depression which is managed with medication, something she has probably needed for many many years but never had to face. Her body is weak. She has some symptoms from a minor stroke. She begrudgingly participates in physical therapy.

I had only considered what she lost. I only considered how I would feel in her situation. It never occurred to me that in all the loss, she might have gained something as well. Mom is 83 years old. Of course her perspective is different than mine.

Maybe over the last year she has gained the time to stop, reflect and be. Maybe she has learned to trust. Maybe she has come to accept that she doesn’t have to do everything herself.

I wonder and I hope that at least some of these ideas hold a smidgen of truth.


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