My initial pride at editing out so much of my last post was replaced with the realization that this is what happens every time I edit my posts -- I don't just reduce the word count while keeping the message intact; instead, I take out information I'm uncomfortable putting in, which inevitably means I take out information that is important to the whole story.
It also means I think I've told you things I haven't, because inside my brain the information still registers as "written" even though I've deleted it, so what remains of the post doesn't make as much sense as it could have.
And finally, it means I still have half the story bottled up inside me, something I am finding hard to sustain.
So in this post I'm going to give you the edited parts, to reduce my stress and to try to give you the whole story, or as whole as I can make it.
You know what they say, there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. In this case: my story, my mother's story, and the truth. I will try hard to be objective but please know that I realize what an impossible job that is.
My mom has always had a tendency to want control over the others in her life. She was a teacher, fer cryin' out loud. (That's an inside joke for all the families of teachers I have known). She was a good teacher, I think, but those skills don't necessarily translate to parenting or partnering. At home she wore the pants, as the saying goes. It affected all our lives. From my earliest memory, there was no marital harmony in our home. My mother finally divorced my father in the mid-1990s. She re-married a few years later, but left him within a few years. So, she has happily lived alone since 2000, by her own choice. That was also the year she moved to my town, close to where she grew up and only a short distance from me and my family.
At first she was self-sufficient, but as the years rolled past and she reached her late 70s and beyond, I and my husband began to be on call for her if she needed accompanying to appointments or little things done around her house. We were okay with that. I mention it only to show that she was becoming more dependent on us long before the dementia began.
At the same time, one of our teenagers developed a severe chronic illness which kept her bedridden for a year and needing help for years after that. Then my father had a paralyzing stroke just as our daughter left the bedridden stage of her illness, and he had to be placed in a nursing home for the last eight years of his life. I was his closest relative, both emotionally and geographically. I took care of his finances and the sale of his home, bought his clothing, did his gift shopping, attended all his medical appointments and surgeries, visited him almost daily, and helped him stay in touch with his siblings and my brother, as he could not use the telephone independently. Five years after his death, my husband developed cancer and died ten months later: ten months of worry, appointments, increasing care, and total heartbreak.
I did everything I could think of for all of them and ached for them, wishing I could relieve their burdens in some way. I do not think I am lacking in empathy. Yet I have so little empathy for my mother. It's not due to her dementia; dealing with dementia alone is difficult but it doesn't kill my compassion. My lack of empathy is due to her personality. These days, she is just more of what she always was. She talks only of herself. She is the center of every melodramatic story, with details that have changed to make her the heroine every time. She blames everyone else for any problems that arise, a long-standing habit. She has taken frugality to meanness, not with her family (which feels uncomfortably like she is trying to buy our love) but for anyone she hires or who does work for her voluntarily, such as her neighbour who shovels her snow and mows her lawn. If I were to give him money or a gift, I would be accused of meddling (and I suppose I would be) but I'm afraid that if I wait until I can repay him without Mom finding out, it might be too late. We never know how life will go.
The situation is frustrating and stressful and at the exact same time it makes me feel crappy toward myself that I don't have the compassion for her that I had for my other family members.
I do realize that part of the stress and resentment I feel toward my mother is because her needs and demands have caused me to put off processing my grief. I have had to box it up and put it away. As the seasons pass, I would like to be able to have the time and space to experience my memories and mourn my husband and everything we shared in the past and still planned for the future. Mom remembers my husband has died, but she doesn't seem to understand how much it affects my life and how I feel. She loves to tell the story of the neighbour whose husband died suddenly; there was a home reception and the guests were sitting quietly and sadly. She baked cookies and took them to the home and everyone forgot their sadness (in her words). In reality, I expect they were simply being polite.
Another part of my frustration is that I've had little to no time or energy for the rest of the people I care about, in particular my children and grandchildren. One of my little grandsons has special needs and it takes a lot of energy to be with him. I just haven't had it in me, partly because of the energy I put into Mom's care.
To add to the pile, I have left undone a great many other things that should have been looked after since my husband's death: paperwork, major house and yard maintenance, and a decision on what to do with our cottage, a place that holds especially strong memories of my husband. With my job, the daily necessities of life, and Mom's care, I haven't the time or energy to do more than deal with each thing as it gets to crisis status.
My mother had her good points, too, and I try to remember them. She worked while raising us and made sure we had good medical and dental care and a good education, things not available to everyone in our area. Her focus on herself was less evident when she was younger, and she was always willing to do her share in the community. She helped nurse her brother and her father when they were at the end of their lives. (Side note: that was her favourite sibling, and she in turn was her father's favourite -- his own words.) And my mother didn't have her own mother around from the time she was about eight years old. She says her mother left; the story I heard straight from my grandfather was that he threw his wife -- and new baby -- out. My mother's aunts helped to raise her and her siblings until my mother was old enough to take over household duties. She did not have an easy life growing up. But I saw so much of my grandfather's selfish and short-tempered behavior in my mother. Did her personality come from genes or environment? I don't know. What I do know is that I share some of those genes and they come out at times, no matter how aware I am or how hard I try to do better. So how much blame should I put on my mother's shoulders for her own behavior?
I don't know. It seems the only thing I know for sure is how stressed out I am.
Anyway . . . that's the stuff I was reluctant to publish last time. Maybe it will help fill in the blanks for you. I still don't like putting it out in a public space but I don't think I can keep it bottled up either without adding to my stress.
|You have no idea how many times I've wanted to use this meme.|
Thanks for reading, kind friends. I hope I haven't fallen too low in your eyes. This is the unvarnished, dark side of me. It's not pretty, but at least -- at last -- I've tried to be honest.