Alone isn’t Lonely

 

Mothers Day

(image from calendar date )

My maternal grandmother died when my mother was two. She was raised by a single father, and a slightly older sister. When she became a mother, she had no template to show her how.

Untreated mental illness always haunted my mother. I knew three versions of her during her lifetime. She was, as I later understood, chronically depressed, something she passed along to me. A stroke altered her personality. She began her decent into dementia; probably something else we will share.

My father, mother and I were three individuals orbiting each other. At the eclipses, our obits might sync for a while before we each swung out into space.

My mother and I muffled along. Her spirit died the day my father did. She developed a passionate need to feel miserable, to refuse anything that might make her life easier. Nineteen years later, one day after her 83rd birthday, her body let her go join my father.

My original mother, and the later models had lessons for me – some very hard to learn. Perhaps the strongest and most lasting began in my childhood. She and my father instilled taking responsibility for one’s actions. I was encouraged to be independent and self-sufficient. Taught that alone didn’t necessarily mean lonely. You can do things on your own, and enjoy the experience.

As the personality changes caused by a stroke fused with her decent into dementia, she began to shrink her world, refusing to utilize equipment that would allow her to move within the scope of a broader world.

By default, and through many tears, I learned that without engaging that wonderful, scary, strange, inviting world outside your door, your body and soul atrophy.

So my relationship with my mother, lessons learned or discarded, was complex and complicated. I felt relief when she passed. She was released. During the difficult years (for both of us) when I became her care-giver, I would walk over to the cemetery to talk to my father. My conversations were punctuated by tears. My father listened, and always seem to whisper “You can do it. You can take good care of her.” I tried, and at the end, honouring her living will and her wishes for when she died.

I look at Mother’s Day as a gift to those who have a special relationship with their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. Celebrate your connections. Keep any pleasant memories from childhood to adulthood. Within them, the most important things will be taught. I hope these things are courage, compassion, understanding, listening, and caring. Those are the types of lessons we all should learn.

Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie: Writing Prompt #106 Valuable Lessons from Mom

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7 thoughts on “Alone isn’t Lonely

  1. mindlovemisery May 12, 2015 / 12:27 am

    There is so much compassion in this and I agree with Michael’s statement as well. I also have strokes, dementia, and mental illness in my family so it hit me quite hard.

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    • phylor May 12, 2015 / 8:23 am

      The more I try to heal, the more I realize the mental health problems contained in my dna. Many of the classic issues did/do present themselves in family members. I think I am the first, and probably the only, who has sought treatment.
      My maternal aunt died a year later from the late stages of Alzheimer’s. Both myself and my oldest cousin have the thought that we are next to begin that decent into dementia.
      I can understand why it hit you hard! There is the part of our character that comes to us through our dna — a reality we have little control over. It’s the rest we can struggle with.
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I hope the things that stalk your family don’t always stalk you and your daughter.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mindlovemisery May 12, 2015 / 9:09 am

        I am seeking therapy myself and have found a nice therapist that has a hands on approach. We draw, we paint, we play musical instruments, we practice relaxation, and of course we also talk. My grandmother didn’t receive treatment for mental illness until her 90s no therapy just drugs but it did give her some peace. My mom has also tried therapy though medication had a terrible effect. My dad doesn’t receive therapy/treatment and he has a paranoid form of Schizophrenia and psychopathy. The Dementia is more mild in my family, certainly memory problems but they can recognize loved ones (though sometimes confusing people temporarily). I do worry about my DNA and I am almost guaranteed a few strokes but I do my best and hope for the best

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        • phylor May 12, 2015 / 9:48 pm

          There is a part of me that still hopes that some of the dna can be overwritten. Not thinking so much about physical health — but mental health.
          There is a mean-spiritedness and greed in my family, that I try to fight all the time. It’s so engrained it seems like a dna-driven evil.
          I can understand why you would worry about your dna, but I think with therapy, and love and support some of it can be rewritten/overwritten.

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  2. summerstommy2 May 11, 2015 / 11:28 pm

    This is both heart breaking look into your reality and at the same time a beautiful call to honour the mothers we had…..life doesn’t always serve up what we’d like it to, but we emerge from it the people we are and our parents have played a part in creating the we that we are.

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    • phylor May 12, 2015 / 8:15 am

      Certainly we do emerge from our childhood/adulthood with pieces of our parents — sometimes ragged sharp piercing pieces, other times small mirror reflections of who they were.
      My father taught me lessons too. He had his own demons, but he could turn the serious into the silly if laughter would help with the pain or the tears.
      And I did learn one other important lesson after being her care-giver, I learned to forgive. In forgiving her, I gained the strength to forgive another family member I never thought I could make peace inside with. Doesn’t mean all the anger is gone — but I’m working on that.
      My mother was my mother — I can’t change that. But I can take what I learned from her to heal myself, and move on. This is very hard, but I’m so far keeping up the struggle.

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      • phylor May 12, 2015 / 8:17 am

        And PS Michael: Thanks for the compassionate comment.

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