28 May 2014

One year.

One year ago, the Spouse Thingy and I took the bikes out for a ride; we needed to run gas through the lines, and decided that would be best accomplished with a ride into Vacaville and lunch at Mel’s.

One year ago I sat in a booth with a half-eaten French Dip in front of me, when my sister sent a text; she thought our mother had had a stroke. Or it might have been a heart attack; the truth is that I don’t clearly remember, I only remember telling the Spouse Thingy, and that this wasn’t going to be good.

One year ago I rode a motorcycle home on the Interstate at 70 mph, trying hard to focus on the ride and everything that can go wrong when you’re on a moving motorcycle; I fought to keep my head where it needed to be, and it needed to be clear in order to ride those 10 miles to home.

One year ago I sat in the living room, waiting for my sister to send a text what I didn’t want to see.

One year ago, my sister called and spoke to the Spouse Thingy, to confirm: our mother had died.

One year ago it was one day before what would have been my parents’ 64th wedding anniversary, and I tried to wrap my heart around the idea that they would get to spend it together, and that the timing of her death was not a coincidence.

One year ago I had a relationship with my mother that was complicated…until it wasn’t.

One year ago the chance for it to ever be uncomplicated left with her.

And that’s all right. In that one year I have spent countless hours thinking about her, mulling over all the what-ifs, and I know now that our relationship would have never been uncomplicated. There was no possibility for it to become anything other than what it was. She was never going to change, and not because of any lack of want on her part; she was never going to change because she couldn’t.

But I’m still here, and I can still change.

It’s taken the full year to pick through the detritus of our relationship; it’s taken the full year to stop being angry about the things that never should have happened and the things that would never have a chance to happen. It’s taken that much time to push past the things said that hurt, and get to the things that were good, and to remember the woman who was happy and social, for whom parenthood was a highlight and not a burden.

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering when the tide turned; when did she stop being herself? When did those angry little voices worm their way into her head? How long ago did the demons of dementia start pulling on the strings of her soul, the threads that wound their way from her head to her heart? How hard did she fight them, purposely ignoring the whispers that told her hateful things about the people she loved? And when did she get tired, too tired to shield herself against them?

Hindsight is a hell of a thing, when you can see past your own fog. I can see her indifference creep up in little increments, starting from the time I was in 6th grade; it all happened in such minute, fragmented, tiny shuffle-steps that sometimes erupted into episodes of depression followed by periods of normal that I don’t think anyone could see it for what it was. Certainly no one living up close to her, and definitely not the doctors to whom she went time after time, unable to tell them anything other than “I don’t feel well,” and “I just don’t feel right.”

She could feel it sneaking up on her, but she couldn’t put her finger on what was wrong, and neither could anyone else.

I sometimes think that the adult me should have understood it better; the woman who barked into the phone that she didn’t want to talk to me anymore was not the woman who raised me. The woman who sat with a couple of her kids at the table, trash talking one of the others, was not the woman who years before would have had sharp words if she’d heard those same kids doing that exact thing. The woman who shouted at one of her own kids that she didn’t love them and never wanted to see them again was not the woman who had been once so proud of her kid’s accomplishments.

It took decades for my mother to be swallowed by those shadows, and because I was living in the middle of it, I don’t think it was possible for me to see it.

But in this last year, I think I’ve been able to sort some of it out. She went from being happy, to being bipolar, to suffering from dementia, and in all those years no matter what she wanted, she couldn’t control the direction she was headed.

It wasn’t really her fault; not all of it, not even most of it. And of the things she had control over…I can stay angry, or I can let it go.

One year ago, I don’t think I ever saw myself getting past being pissed off at all the little digs and insults, at trying to understand a mother who never had anything nice to say about just about anyone, especially her own kids. But now, it feels a lot like blaming someone with a broken leg for wanting something to smother the pain. She had demons picking at her that no one could see, demons that were sneaky enough to hide in the shadows where the people who should have been able to find them couldn’t see.

Staying angry, wrapping myself up in the disappointments of what could have and should have been, does absolutely no good.

There’s not even anything to forgive; life was what it was, and crap things happen to good people.

I’d give just about anything to still be frustrated over all the petty things, to know that if I picked up the phone and were able to understand anything she said I would hang up later upset. I would rather she still be here and cranky as hell, but that’s really just a selfish thing. I don’t think anyone wants their mother to die.

She didn’t like me, but she loved me. From the moment I drew my first breath, she loved me.

I miss her.

It looks a lot like this...
And yet…I have this picture in my head of my parents together again, both finally free of dementia and Parkinson’s and heart disease, happy and healthy and whole, and how can I wish for anything other than that?

I can’t.

My mother loved me, and I loved her, and in the grand, Technicolor, IMAX 3D scheme of things, that’s the only thing that matters.

I won’t sing it, but…

I’m letting it go.


Gimli's Mom said...

Wow. You are an amazing person. I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for such a beautiful insight.

Erin said...

I echo that, Karen. I thought it yesterday when I read your post and I doubly think it (if that is possible) today. You can WRITE!!! And I know this comes at a price.
Thank you for sharing your heart with the rest of us, for helping us see ourselves and others a bit more clearly.
I want to say I love your soul, but it sounds trite. But true.

Carmi Levy said...

I knew you were a remarkable person long before I read this. This simply reinforces it.

As I look at the experiences of my own parents and in-laws - different, but twisted and tortuous in their own respective way - I can't help but think that somehow, despite the intervening drama of lives that played out in complete defiance of some Hollywood-esque script, they gave us just enough of themselves so that we'd be able to go on and build meaningful lives of our own.

Thinking of you on this sad day, and wishing you only good things from today forward.

Dean McCaughan said...

Letting go is very hard. After Jeni's Mom died she had to decide how she should handle things with her Dad who had left them when she was young. She still wanted a family, so she had to move beyond some things. It's never easy, and hurt still resurfaces. I couldn't imagine dealing with a parent with dementia. Thank you for sharing...

kenju said...

So much of what you write about her could be written by me about my mom. Very hard to get through, but I too, mourn for the things that happened that never should have, etc.
Hang in there.

Derby, Ducky said...

Mum is all leaky eyed. She misses her mum and dad, always.