Today is Mother's Day. I wasn't blessed with children and sometimes, especially around holidays, I feel the lack keenly. But most of the time I accept God's plan, knowing there is a reason. Since my Mother came to live with us, I think I know the reason. She has become my child.
It's somewhat difficult to accept this version of my Mother - she, who was so strong (she could stand on her head and water ski holding the handlebar between her knees) and so outgoing is now content to sit at home and watch the world go by. I think one of the things those of us with aging parents experience is the vision of them as we remember from childhood. That they no longer look this way forces us to face the fact that we too are getting older and worse, we are approaching the day when we will be orphans.
Mom can no longer see very well and requires hearing aids in both ears. I think this is why she doesn't like to go out that often or talk to others - she can no longer distinguish faces and she doesn't want to ask people to repeat themselves if she hasn't heard them. (She's a champion of the "smile and nod" technique.) She tried going to church a few times but it was too hard for her to hear so she stays home and watches the Hour of Power on television. Leaving her home has become an effort she's no longer willing to put forth.
For some reason, she is obsessed with cancer even though this disease has not been prevalent in her family. Her cousin suffered skin cancer though and all winter long, she kept telling me she had skin cancer and pointing to areas of dry skin. We even took her to the doctor to reassure her and now it's become something of a joke. Just the other day she pointed to an area around her ear and said, "I found some more skin cancer" and then, after searching for awhile, "I guess it's not there anymore". "Right, Mom", I replied with no small amount of humor. "Because cancer goes in and out like that". She thought that was funny. Oftentimes, she gives me the cancer line just to get a reaction from me. She makes me laugh.
Holidays revolve around her. We always have lots of packages for her at Christmas because she loves the way they look around the tree. My siblings do the same so it looks like there should be more than just three people living in this house when one considers all these gifts. For Valentine's Day, she always gets candy and a stuffed animal (she loves stuffed animals). Last year for Easter, we gave her a giant stuffed bunny (blue, because as everyone knows, Easter Bunnies are actually blue) that she'd seen at K-Mart weeks before and never stopped talking about. This year it was a much smaller, purple bunny and of course, her basket of candy. She loves all these things and the attention that goes with it.
She gets things out of the refrigerator and leaves them on the counter. She saves napkins because she's only used a corner of one and the rest is "still good". She won't throw away food but after it goes bad, she'll tell us it can be thrown out. She piles newspapers on the floor and then slips on them practically every time she stands up. She washes her lunch plates and stacks them on the back of the sink instead of letting us put them in the dishwasher because it "saves water". She needs help bathing and getting dressed. She uses special tools to help her open cans and bottles because she no longer has the strength to open them. In every way, she is more child than adult to me.
If I sound like I'm complaining, I'm not. She took care of me when I was little and I am glad I can return the favor. She is a bright spot in our lives. Someday she'll no longer be with us. And the house will be terribly empty.
Happy Mother's Day.