First, the biggest thing was when the therapist was talking about "good enough" and "good enough mothers" and "we all know good enough mothers" and "you had a good enough mother" and i froze like prey in sight of a predator and couldn't speak. Tears welled up and S-- walked it back. But i've felt a sense of ache with that trigger, a sense of gasping for air. My thoughts flash to the painting i did of an archetypal mother kneeling with her arms out, thoughts of the one time i remember asking for and sort of being comforted. The pain is still there.
And we talked about doing things and resting and relaxing and me turning pleasure into work ("Ooof, didn't read the comics today, i'm going to get behind in story lines!")
Tuesday night i got an email out that i needed to (need = i made a commitment). There are similar efforts i need to make (preparing for meeting for business, getting a message out to people to have responses before the meeting).
Wednesday i spent with Mom, giving my sister L-- a break*. I'd started the day feeling brain foggy. At mom's, despite having a list of things to do while sitting around if Mom was busy (and she was -- she was going through her supplies of pens and stationary and staples and glue and tape, mystified by what some of the things were -- stapler, pencil sharpener, plain stationary), i did none of those things.
Driving home i started asking myself about why i am doing things to help Mom. First, it came that i am helping Dad and helping L--, but then with waves of tears it came to me how i was also learning about my mother who might have been. With the anxiety, anger, and bitterness gone from her, this woman is a sweet and caring person. I can imagine her being that comforting figure who greeted one with arms held out and who would comfort and care. I cried for miles.
One of the most striking things as the dementia ate away the anxiety was how sweet she is with Dad. I carry a vivid memory of riding in a car with Mom while visiting in NC. Christine must have been with her mother, who was very much experiencing Alzheimer's. This immediately turned into a "what about me" conversation where Mom went on about her fears of getting Alzheimer's (one of her aunts had it although another was quite sharp deep into her 90s) and how my Dad would never take care of her. Her bitter fear even now sets my teeth on edge. There was no rational reason to believe he wouldn't.
It was strange, too, how after the stroke some of the acerbic energy came back. I recall one afternoon with her where, even aphasic, she made clear her disgust with me. I was OK with that, thinking it was what she might need to recover. But it's faded, and there's this sweetness, and she glows at my father, laughing at his jokes, and -- oh, what could have been? I am so glad these last years he has with her he can make happy memories. And i can see this sweetness, too. I asked her about her brother's house, and -- just like after his last visit -- i hear her response and know she still has some sort of gossipy critical judgy thing going on in her mind. (Knowing what it was when she could clearly communicate, i assume it's the same issues, despite the vocabulary limited now to "bad things" and "not good.") But she asks after things now, and she seems to want to hear about things -- even if she's not really understanding it....
Anyhow, i'm probably going to go through a period of grieving for a while, grieving how it's only now that i'm experiencing unconditional love from my mother.
* Dad, vaccinated and with two weeks for it to fully take effect, went to Florida Saturday morning to be with his mom (104) while his cousin went back to her house in Alabama to check on black markings developing on the walls. Turns out the house issue was wallpaper bleeding through paint. Dad forgot his iPad and wouldn't let my sister overnight it to him. He hasn't been able to see Mom's eyes, which are more eloquent than her aphasia and dementia allow her words to be. (They are still able to be sweet to each other on the phone.) Anyhow, my sister initially planned to have Mom at her house during the work week, but then seemed to decide that it would be easier to take Mom back to her house for at night (hospital bed with a mattress protected from accidents one key aspect). Monday night i went over after work to wait for pest control. Wednesday i came over to work from there, and L went back to her house, returning midafternoon with her kids and attempting to work outside (dump wasn't open, pressure washer had no pressure), then took her son back home for a while.
Once my sister started cleaning at Mom & Dad's she doesn't seem to have been able to stop, periodically texting me photos of crud.