The relationship I have with my mama is the most complicated relationship I have with anyone. She is warmth, love, hugs and chocolate chip cookies. She is stubborn, critical, loud and unyielding. She is all of those things and so much more. She is my safe place.
I remember many occasions from my childhood when she just embarrassed the pants off of me. She was never one to sit back and let someone offend or neglect her. If a sales clerk kept her waiting for a long time, my mama would let that person know about it. Sometimes she did so very loudly. Where everyone in the store could hear.
Then there was the time when my softball team was playing a game and a storm blew in. I was up to bat and my mom stopped the game by running out on the field to home plate to take out the metal hair clip I was wearing. She didn't want me to get struck by lightning. If she was mad at one of us she might yell for awhile and then hours later you could still hear her muttering under her breath about it while making dinner. Depending on the day, I was either mortified, amused or just in complete awe of her.
I have two siblings and we were all pretty quiet growing up. I think it was because we always knew that mama would talk for us if we didn't say anything to people. I also knew that she would stand up for me if someone was trying to serve up some injustice my way. My mom is not a coward. She is brave. She endured the horror of losing a child who died at age 15. Over the years, I have born witness to the death of both of her parents and all four of her brothers. She has a strength and a faith in God that cannot be broken.
I also saw her be MeMaw to both of my sister's children. I couldn't wait to have kids of my own someday that she could love on. I wanted them to know her the way I know her. I wanted her to be their safe place.
About three years ago, the doctors diagnosed my mom with dementia. She had undergone some back surgeries and had trouble on the second one with side effects from the anethesia. I'm not sure what happened next but I know a doctor did some tests and determined that she was in the beginning stages of this disease that will eventualy steal her away from us. I'm not ready.
Luckily, her disease seems to be spreading slowly. We've all noticed changes in her though. I'm sure my dad sees it the most. However, he is also a strong one and tries not to burden his children with many details. The thing we all notice the most is how quiet she has become. She used to talk so much that it sometimes drove me crazy. Now, I miss her voice. I miss the daily "prying" phone calls into my life. I miss my mama. Yes, we still have her and for that I am grateful, but she is changed.
She doesn't travel well. She prefers to be in her house with her things so my parents visits to see us and our kids have been cut back. My hopes that my kids will know the mama I knew is gone. They love her and don't know any different so I'm not sure why this bothers me so. I'm selfish and I wish things were different.
There are still glimpses of the person she always was and for that I am grateful. Times when I hear that laugh of hers ringing through a room. The other day she accidentally skyped me from her computer. I could hear her before I could see her, calling for my dad yelling that I was trying to skype her. I just died laughing trying to explain to her that she in fact had pushed the button to call me. But see that was something my mom would always have done. Technology is not her friend. And then when I saw her face pop up on my computer I died laughing again. She looked a complete mess. Now, don't think I'm being cruel. My mom is the type of person who goes to the beauty shop every week to get her hair done. She is always put together. But that day her hair was flat and short and in need of a fix. I couldn't help myself. I just looked at her and said "mama, what is going on with your hair?" She said she thought it was time for a perm. And I laughed and said it most certainly was. You see, my mom would never have let me out of the house looking like that. In fact, she used to bug me so much as a teenager. I would primp and preen in front of the mirror for hours and finally come out only to have her say something like "aren't you going to put on any makeup?" or "oh! are you done with your hair?" So to have the tables turned in this instance was sort of liberating and funny to boot.
I have friends with loved ones in similar situations. I know what to expect next. I pray that we still have many good years left together. I wonder if she notices the changes in herself. Does she know she's being quiet? Does her mind go somewhere else during the silences? Is there confusion or blankness? These are the thoughts that drive me crazy but they are things I don't dare ask her about. I know that somewhere in me lies a well of strength. Just like my mama. I hope I can be strong for her if she needs me to or just love her through this stage of life like she loved me through all of mine.
** This is the original post I wrote about my mom. I was contacted by a site coordinator at http://www.agreatplace.ca/ to submit an inspirational story to their website a couple weeks ago. She graciously edited my long winded version and they are featuring it on their website this week! Click on over to see the shorter, cleaner version!