Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Wind is My Mother

Been off the grid for a long min. Parenting your parent is a curious process.

Part of you resents having to stop

your everyday preoccupations in order to play the responsible adult child. Part of you gladly/affectionately welcomes the new normal. Most caregivers find their position somewhere in the middle of that process, in between the old photographs and cherished memories now lost in a vacuum called dementia. We first noticed it when mom stopped tending to her vegetable garden. Her energy wasn't the same. She lacked the pull it takes to grow beautiful/plentiful tomatoes, egg plants, peppers, mint and basil in her own backyard. Her body became frail. She wasn't eating as much and her thoughts were somewhat irrational which in turn made her actions suspect. She was still mom, or auntie, or grandma, or good neighbor but the smile was fading, the face was changing; not just aging but changing. We could see it in recent photos; that look an Alzheimer's patient has when they're smiling about nothing, their eyes wondering off somewhere past the here and now.

I've bee re-reading The Wind Is My Mother by Bear Heart. Books are great like that, in the sense that you can read them several times and each time discover something new about the message/about yourself. In the beginning chapters, Bear Heart says you don't ask to be a medicine man
; it's just part of your calling/who you are and what you came here to do. It got me thinking about playing the caregiver role. How it first calls you to action with a thousand responsibilities poking at you until it finally becomes part of your everyday life. You don't ask to be Power of Attorney. It's inevitable. The armor simply waits for you to put it on. It doesn't care how exhausted or in control you are or think you are of the situation. This was part of the journey all along, and you either pass the role to another and miss your chance or Represent.

Sometimes the wind isn't my mother but my ancestors, recent and past, guiding me/directing me. They tell me what my mother no longer can say for herself and make ways out of nothings. And sometimes I think the dis-ease is more about having one foot in the next life and the other right here where it all doesn't make sense anymore, and the people no longer recognizable except the songs remembered and the feel of a strong but loving voice you call your son. To be the one person who's able to help mom keep her emotional balance while navigating both realities used to be a burden but now an honor. It takes time, depending on the seeds planted earlier on. Because it's true what folk say-- What you give is what you get back. I never resented my mother; just her disappearing acts. And she never resented me; just my poor choices. We're more alike than not. Something I discovered recently in my handwriting and in the way I enter a room, with poise and purpose. I may have my father's free spirit, but I'm learning that I'm mother's son. And it's an honor.


Angie B. said...

Thanks for sharing your experience! So many adult children have experienced this or will experience this with a parent or relative. Great blog! Glad to have you back on the web.

Autumn Beckman said...

Lovely. We're going through this with my grandmother. My sister and her husband have moved in to become the caregivers. It's quite a struggle for all of them.

Autumn Beckman said...

Lovely. We're dealing with this with my grandmother. My sister and her husband have moved in to care for her. It's quite a struggle for them all. Best wishes to you.