The first week in December marks the one year anniversary since my Mother became ill. Unfortunately, it was commemorated with another hospital visit. As many of you know when a loved one is sick, you lose track of time. Sleep is a treat, and sleep without worry is even more special. One day, I was traveling to the nursing home and thinking. “Wow! This is our 5th hospital visit Mother has been in, and it feels like we’ve come full circle not knowing she would be in the hospital two more times.” Caring for aging parents is like coming full circle in parental guidance; similar to motherhood.
I think back to how I was when my baby girl was born, excitement and fear were the combined emotions. But with a shaky marriage, future uncertainty ruled my thought process. I’ve been uncertain through my mother’s entire sickness; now, with her back home it seems surreal. There are days I feel like her mother even though I know my Mother would laugh out loud at that thought. I’d rather perform the home administrator duties like making the doctor’s appointments, scheduling the transportation pickup instead of administering her next medication or taking her blood pressure and blood sugar. I don’t mind the cooking except when she won’t eat. I don’t mind packing the snack for dialysis until it comes back untouched.
All of these are similar to being a mother to a child and I’m sure other caretakers have probably felt the exasperation in this situation because there is one major difference; that is, Mother talks back and you can’t reply like you would to a small child. I can’t sweet talk her into taking her medicine, and I can’t force her to eat so she’ll have strong bones. I have to realize her tummy is sensitive in a different way and her body is tired from needles, x-rays and dialysis.
I understand that when my voice is in a directive tone, she replies in her mother tone to let me know who really the mother is. I realize my major failure in this delicate situation is lack of patience and I have a hard time balancing the Jekyll and Hyde position of daughter/mother’s caretaker. One wrong move with her cannula can cause panic about her oxygen. Five blackberries instead of 3 is reason for a scolding on wasting fruit. It’s hard to say we talk when the conversation surrounds what she needs. A child depends on their parents to provide all their needs. Unlike caretaking, the parental guidance is undercover so your parent won’t feel less than a parent. I feel sad that my mother is so sick and thankful she is still living. I stay in an emotional turmoil, and that anxiousness comes through my care. The fatigue shows. I respond short and irritated. Then, guilt takes over making me feel less than adequate as a caretaker or daughter.
One day during a “woe is me caretaker” moment, I remembered when I was a frustrated, exhausted single mom. The only remedy that would make me feel better was my baby showing me pure love by a hug or a gooey Skittle kiss. When she would have a tough teenage day, I’d just wrap her in a hug, and it would ease it all away. I had no manual to follow, and we turned out alright. Caretaking is very similar because it is a day-to-day operation like motherhood. My Mother needs encouragement, a smile, a kiss, reassurance, and a change of attitude in her caretaker. This realization proved I am evolving as a daughter, caretaker and mother; even as I turned down the biggest audition of my career, knowing that sacrifice is part of the process. The best thing I needed to do was give my mother pure love like she gave me. Isn’t giving pure love the best of evolving motherhood regardless who is in the mother role? I think so.
[Janet E. Blakemore is a former full-figure model, former director of a modeling school, retiree from TN State Government, and an awesome, vibrant spirit of a person. In addition to writing, Janet is an entrepreneur who enjoys retail therapy, being a Tennessee State University alum, and time with her adult daughter and extended family. ]