Family Secrets – Talk About Your “Stuff”
In an earlier blog, I wrote about how “perfect” my Mom was. I never met my Mom’s parents and it wasn’t until I was 40 that I learned why my Mother strived for perfection. She had high expectations for me as a daughter (including the white glove test.) She was upset when I told her I wanted to be married at a local B&B. Nothing less than a fancy church wedding and reception would do. She hand sewed my bride’s maids’ gowns and helped over see the selection of music, flowers and catering. It was perfect. I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without her.
It wasn’t until the failure of my marriage, that I bothered to ask her why she had cared so much about those fancy things when I did not. We just didn’t talk about “stuff” in my family. Then, she told me that while she was getting married in a court-house, her own Mother was living in a sanitarium. She wanted to do for me what her own Mom could not do for her. She added that she was born out-of-wedlock and raised by an extended family. As a teenager, she had her name legally changed to match that of a step-father. She worked very hard in order to escape judgment. She did not want me to be judged either. Insecurities aside, my Mom turned out to be a high functioning bad ass of a Mom. Though her perfectionism annoyed me at times, she made up for it with a great sense of compassion for people in similar circumstances plus a wonderful, sometimes devious, sense of humor. As she continued to age, she opened up more and more about things. I just wish she had the chance to have those conversations with her own Mother.
Talk about “stuff” while you can, it’s good for your mental health.
The Assistance We Need – Ask for Help
Mom had been in hospice for a year and half. Even before this, I was reluctant to travel for business or pleasure. After completing several months of FMLA I broke down in a conversation with my brother. He asked if I needed help. I did and his response was, “I’m coming.” He and my sister-in-law relocated from California to help care for my Mom.
One day, before my brother was here, I took my Mom to the grocery store. At the time, I was single-handedly putting her in the car and stowing her wheel chair in the trunk. A kind woman stopped to help in the Kroger parking lot when she saw me struggling with Mom half in/half out of the car. The struggle continued as the two of us together could not move my Mom. We stopped to catch our breath, introduced ourselves, and she said she was a nurse. She was experienced with transitioning, so wasn’t sure why this was so difficult (Mom wasn’t helping at all.) She asked “Can I sit here with your Mom while you go in to do the shopping?” I laughed, hugged her and said “we’re done shopping, I’m trying to get her back in the car!” Once our goals were aligned, we quickly got Mom into the front seat. We thanked her and as we drove off Mom said “I was wondering how long it would take you two to figure that out.” I told you she could be devious.
Talk about what you need in order to avoid working at cross purposes or working yourself to exhaustion.
What You’re Afraid Of – Getting Over Yourself
During Mom’s illness, I spent 3 years thinking I wasn’t doing enough for her and afraid she would pass away in my absence. I finally talked this over with a friend who said, “Tracey, your Mom appreciates you and hasn’t asked you to never take trips, right? If you go and something happens, you’ll come home. That’s it.” I finally decided to go to the beach, but sat on a blanket with my cell phone and never got in the water. My friends went out on this super raft while I fretted. The second day at the beach I got “the call” from our hospice nurse….I needed to go home. Ironically, this was the day I’d been dreading, but I knew just what to do. I went home and sat with my Mom as she passed. Perhaps she was just waiting for me to leave.
The death of a loved one is about them, not you. You don’t have to be there all the time, but be present when you are.
My Mom died September 11th of last year. I’m publishing this early because I’m going back to that beach and getting on the raft this time.