While driving home yesterday (six-plus hours less a lunch stop), I was suddenly confronted with not wanting to deal with my mom’s back and forth, and ups and downs anymore. Like, hand off her care and feeding to someone else, or evaporate, or wake up in some different, contention-free reality. In that moment, in the 5 years, 4 months, and 28 days since my dad died, since I’ve ‘taken over,’ I was simply done.

The further I drove, the more I realized I was done being emotionally jerked around. It is not my mother’s fault that her desire to return home strikes terror in my heart. That her conviction of her ability to lead an independent life deflates my confidence in her continued safety. That her desire for freedom equates to my failing her. This is in no way similar to when my children stretched their wings and took flight, occasionally scaring their parents along the way, for that is the nature of life. We are not prepared for the retraction of our parents’ independence, or at least I was not. How do I (we collectively) encourage my mother to roost contently in her new coop? How do I cease to (internally) react to her squawks and clucks without turning myself off emotionally. Do I meet her in the middle of her storms and gales with equal force, or continue trying to distract her? There are no positives here: Don’t explain, don’t correct her reality, don’t confront her, it’s impossible for her to understand her own condition so don’t try… There is nothing any of us can do to dissuade her from her homing instinct. And so again I work on my attitude, externally and internally.

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