End of Life Relationships

I am so thankful for the relationship I had with my father at the end of his life. It was whole, teenage years being long forgiven on both of our parts. I had learned to listen openly to his thoughts and ideas that, sometimes, were not always like my own, or that I didn’t necessarily understand, because I knew and trusted there was experience, and wisdom there beyond my own. Dad was appreciative of all we did for him, and mom. He shared with me, in quiet intense moments, eloquently, expressively, and with frustration, what it was like to live with my mother as she diverged from what had been the rational path they’d paved together for for over 40 years. 

Dad did not handle well mom’s repeats, forgetfulness, and ire, but he did so in such a manner that she seldom realized he was impatient. We did, but she did not. Perhaps that’s the blessing of her disease. In some ways it was a minor conspiracy between the two of us, that began in August of 2004, when we started talking about mom’s ‘state of mind.’ Mom was in denial. Dad and I had her illness in common, amongst other things. I will always remember taking him to the Apple Store to explore buying an iPad as a possible vehicle to keep the ‘printed page’ a part of his life as his vision was betraying him. We sat in the car for 40 minutes before entering the store as he vented about mom. The one sentence I recall with absolute clarity is: “It doesn’t matter if we never step out of the vehicle… Just having a break from your mother makes this all worth while.” I am writing this post on the 5ish year old iPad dad bought that day. Sadly, he never got the handle of manipulating the screen. He couldn’t see well enough. Dad’s humor was intact until he went into the hospital, four years ago yesterday.

In contrast, my recent relationship with my mother is one of tip-toeing and eggshell navigating. Past posts don’t need reiterating; my PTSD symptoms born of being yelled at repeatedly, unexpectedly, irrationally, and for ridiculous reasons are on the Blog to be plumbed should one be so inclined… We won’t talk about about what the sound of the phone does to me. I long for the days of sharing anything with my mom that simply made her glad. It could have been her granddaughters’ accomplishments, serving her a meal that she relished, asking for help sewing an item of clothing for one of the girls, entertaining one of her friends (people I looked up to from my childhood) in our home when she was visiting, doing a little gardening together, singing together… Perhaps the only thing that remains pure and simple is singing. Maybe, when she brings her prickles to bear I should have a ‘go to’ song! A song I know she knows, but I can ask, Mom, do you know “Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at?” And then we will burst into the magic of three part harmony with two voices, and I will have, if for a moment, a return of that relationship with my mom, sans her disease.

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