Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page

Sisters?

My third attempt at a self-portrait of the two of us. It obviously wasn't easy. But Mom put up with me reaching around her head.

My third attempt at a self-portrait of the two of us. It obviously wasn’t easy. But Mom put up with me reaching around her head.

An employee at the Alz center asked me today if Mom and I are sisters. I know that is a compliment to Mom’s lovely skin and serene facial expression. And I try very hard not to care about whether I look my age, or younger or older. But I was slightly taken aback. I do fly my gray-hair flag with complete comfort. But I have good skin, too, so I don’t think I look like Mom’s contemporary even though she looks young. I didn’t take actual offense. When I told her I am Mom’s daughter, she said she used to be asked if she was her mom’s sister, too, because her mom looked so young. It’s all good. And it inspired me to take a picture of Mom and me together.

Our visit got off to a bumpy start. An aide was looking for Mom at the same time I was when I walked into the program area. She had been told Mom was wet so she wanted to change her clothes. She got Mom to stand up and told her I was there but that she had to go to the bathroom before we could visit. Mom grudgingly went along with her. When they returned, Mom had on a fresh set of clothes. She was somewhat grumpy. I asked the aide how it went. “She hates me. She hates me,” she said. That’s what Mom says when she is changed. But it’s all verbal, nothing physical. I tried to rub Mom’s back and she pushed my hand away. Mom gave me a sneer and the aide said, “Good luck.”

Mom and I walked for a short while, and I could tell she was still agitated. “You’re a son of a bitch,” she said to me. She walked across the program area and sat in a chair. I walked away from her to get my coat, and to let her relax for a second without any disturbance. I pulled up a chair and just talked quietly to her for a little bit. “I hate you,” she said. I was trying very hard not to be upset by this. I hadn’t visited her in a long time – just over three weeks, possibly a record – and I felt guilty about that. Also, the last time I visited she was sound asleep, so we didn’t talk at all. I’m usually convinced Mom has no sense of time, but I wondered: Does she think I stayed away for too long?

I held her hand and started rubbing it gently. I just kept doing that. And I said to Mom that I would love it if she would just smile. “Do I know you?” she said. “I’m Emily. I’m your daughter,” I replied. “You’re Bonnie. Bonnie Caldwell.” She nodded slowly. She occasionally lowered her head and I thought she was probably tired. I gently massaged Mom’s forearm along with her hand. Finally, she laughed. Just quietly, as if to herself. And we began to have what has come to be a normal visit, with her telling short stories but not making much sense, and both of us occasionally cracking each other up. I told her I had missed having a chance to talk to her over these past few weeks, that Patrick’s dad had passed away and that I had had trouble staying in the groove at work. Those two things were related somewhat, I am sure. But I also began to feel, recently, that my persistent bad mood related to missing Mom, too. I am a creature of routine, and Mom is part of my routine. Plus, in the past, when I’ve been down, I’ve just wanted to talk to my mom about it. Some things just don’t change.

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