Today is going to be one of those posts that in the end is probably more informative to me than it is to anyone else but I feel compelled to communicate my thoughts to the world right now.
I feel rather sad and heavy but at the same time question why that is. I actually don’t feel justified feeling this way. My Mom has always seemed so strong and forceful to me. Sadly, she is experiencing cognitive demise, due to dementia and we are floundering. After attending a doctor’s appointment with her and my Dad yesterday it became even more apparent to me just how much her cognitive abilities have declined.
Tomorrow is my birthday and my son’s as well. Add to that my niece and my aunt and I think it is safe to say that it is a big day in our family. A day a mother would always remember, right? I realized yesterday that this is not always true, so as this special day looms closely over me this morning, I find myself processing a couple of hard truths. Mom’s disease is now causing significant memory loss and I will not have her presence in the way I am used to, nor will I be with my son anytime soon. Having said that, I still feeling a little unjustified in my self-pity.
A situation that arose after the doctor appointment has brought me up short and caused me to reflect on my feelings of sadness and aloneness because my Mom can’t remember some things, such as the birthday.
After our appointment with the doctor Mom and I were leaving the building and someone quietly called out my name as we passed the waiting room. At first I could not register who it was that had called me, but then a woman stood up and I was so glad to see that it was a friend, the one whose father just passed away and whose son is my son’s absolute best friend. Our brief encounter lifted my spirits and brought me encouragement when I needed it.
Here I was standing in front of a woman who’s father has just passed away and whose children both live half way across the globe from her; her daughter in Australia and her son in Germany. I was feeling pretty low after seeing the Dr., as was my mother and yet this woman who had much to feel sorry for was encouraging me.
Unlike my friend, I am the one whose parents are both still alive and whose children are away but much more accessible than my friend’s children are, and yet she was happy, even joyful. When I asked her how she dealt with everything, her children so far away and all, she smiled and spoke with such enthusiasm. She told us how proud she was of her son playing hockey in Germany and of her daughter, married with two young boys and becoming an Australian citizen. What I considered to be more than I could take, seemed to be cause for such celebration to her.
She shared with us how she gets to witness her grandson crawling and all the special moments of being a grandmother through FaceTime and Skype and when I thought about it, I imagined that this would be so much more manageable than when her parents came to Canada from Germany and had only letter writing and the occasional expensive phone call to keep in touch with their family and friends.
Add to that, her response when my Mom asked her how her Mother was coping after her father’s death, which was great, and I felt ashamed of my inability to rise above my wallowing over my Mother’s illness. Her Mom is back at their family home, on her own, doing well, only weeks after her husband’s death.
This woman stood there in front of us sharing the good things about her situation; how she is happy to have been off work while her father succumbed to his illness and her mother grieved the imminent loss of her life partner. She told us how her mother is back home doing well as she wades through the transitions and legalities of going from ‘married’ to ‘widowed.’
So again, I wonder, how does she do it? Why do I feel such sadness when I have so much to celebrate? Perhaps it is time for me to realize that life does not reward those who wallow in sadness of what used to be. Today is the day before my birthday and my son’s birthday, which has always been cause for my parents and immediate family to celebrate. Just because one of us can’t remember the date and another one of us is too far away to celebrate with us physically does not mean that there is not cause for joy and celebration.
Perhaps the lesson here is that there is an opportunity for me to act on the inspiration of my friend and her family and choose a similar path. Rather than focussing on what we no longer have or what used to be, perhaps this is an opportunity to celebrate what we do have.
I no longer have a young son who lives with me and is always there for our special day and my parents are not as young and able as they once were but no matter. Today I choose to celebrate my creative, hard-working, intelligent, loving, handsome son and my parents whose undying support and physical presence are still with us. Happy Birthday to me and my son!