Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Relief of Drought, At Least A Tiny Bit

Do you see that picture? It is a picture of the leaf of a banana plant (with bottles in the background, of course) and that leaf is WET!
It is raining. Gently, gently and hardly enough probably to make a dent in the drought we've had but just the very smell of rain, its sound as it falls on leaves and ground, is enough to restore my soul, if not the trees.

Something is happening to me. My heart is softening so much towards my mother. It's had nothing to do with logic or effort on my part. I haven't "tried," and I haven't prayed, of course, but it's just happened.
Not only has my heart softened, but I've actually started not dreading to see her. I tell you the exact moment it happened- when she moved into Westminster Oaks and she softened herself. She accepted, she saw that her clothes would fit into that closet, she stopped fighting and calling the people who lived there "rich bitches," she quit talking about wanting to die. She started taking great interest in her surroundings and I saw her introduce herself to people, both residents and staff, and well, it just happened.

Perhaps that wall that I've had up for so many years, the one which had the first bricks laid in it when I was a very small child, the one that I had to put up because she always seemed to want me to be responsible for her happiness, has crumbled.
I see that she can be happy and that I don't have to be the one to make her that way.
The wall got so much higher and sturdier when her husband, my father-in-law died. She was vastly unhappy, and rightly so. She had moved up to Tallahassee to live with him and after his death, she stayed, and it seemed that she resented us, somehow, for letting this happen. For letting her suffer so. She seemed to resent everything about me. She resented that my husband was still alive. That my husband was a good, good man. That my children did not scatter to the winds as soon as they could, that my family was a stable one, that sometimes I needed her to watch the grandchildren.
Oh, not on a regular basis, by any means, but you know- once in awhile.
She resented me when some money came from my real father's side of the family. She actually told me, "You didn't do a thing to deserve that money," which, as far as I know, is how inherited money works. She resented me fiercely over that, although my husband and I gave her some of it. Not a huge amount, but nothing to sneeze at either.
And the wall just got bigger and bigger until finally, to protect myself, I made it unbroachable.
I'm not saying that was right, I'm not saying that was wrong. I am just saying that that is how it was.
One of my brothers could NOT understand my feelings. He chastised me, he raged against me, he cursed me, quite literally, for that wall. Another brother just nodded his head and did not take sides. Another brother simply stayed away.

But all of a sudden, things have changed so very dramatically. I don't feel a bit of that resentment from my mother. It's like it's been erased. And maybe this is true and maybe it's not, but I don't feel it. Instead, what I feel is almost like something I think a regular mother would feel for her child. A regular, slipping into very bad memory loss mother, at least. It's not like I think I will be going to her with any problems of my own, but at least I don't feel as if I can't tell her anything without her turning things into something that she resents me for again.

I remember when I first started taking care of Owen and I told her how much I adored him and how lucky I felt to be so active in his life and she said to me, "Well, that will change," and I felt as if I had been shot. I took that bullet and rolled it around in my flesh for months. But now, when I tell her stories of Owen she laughs merrily (yes! merrily) and talks about how smart he is, how expressive, how sweet. I can actually imagine taking him to visit her in her new home. I can imagine how proud she'll be to have her darling great-grandson come to visit, to show him off to the people there.

Do you know how profound this is?

Last night when I went with her to the dining area and sat with her for awhile as she ate and talked to some of her fellow-residents, one of the ladies said to her, "Moving here is the best thing you can do for your children. They know that we are being taken care of beautifully and that we are happy here."

Oh my god. Exactly.

I feel that way exactly. I don't feel one whit of guilt for taking her out of her house and putting her in Westminster. I see the incredible kindness of every staff member I've met. I saw the beautiful face of the woman from Africa, heard her velvet-love voice, saw how the other residents adored her, put their arms around her and she put their arms around them. I saw her eat her breakfast this morning after I'd taken her to get her blood drawn and how she ate an entire banana with her cereal- not just a half of a banana, the way she usually does and how much she enjoyed that. When she was finished eating, there was still milk in the little container and she said, "Now see, that's going to go to waste."
"Mama," I said, "You've been making powdered milk for your whole life and you haven't wasted a drop. You've saved enough milk to feed India. Now it is time to use what you want and forget about what you don't want."

She considered this. She smiled.
"Yes," she said. "You're right."

I left her in her room with her four or five boxes she had not unpacked and she smiled happily and said, "I'm going to be busy for days getting all of this arranged."
I looked around and thought, "Lord. I could do it in twenty minutes." And I could. They're not big boxes and there's not that many places to put the things and mostly, she'll put them on the same furniture in the same places she had them in her house. But she felt good about this task. She is nesting.
At the age of 84, my mother is nesting in a lovely place where they give her a banana any time she wants it and juice, a big ol' honking glass of it, and she can get up and leave her bowl and banana peel and the unused carton of milk on the table and go do whatever she wants to do. Go to a lecture, go swimming, to go water aerobics, go to town in the bus, play Trivia or Bingo, take a nap or unpack her treasures and read old letters and look at old pictures.

Yesterday she found a letter that she'd gotten from Governor Graham, sent to her to thank her for her work for hospice.
"Now what do I do with THAT?" she asked me.
"Keep it," I said.
And there is room for it. And she can. She can keep it. She has not had to leave all her treasures behind or her clothes or her furniture or any of those things. She has them with her in her own little room that she has a key for which she calls her "house key."

It is still raining. Miracle of rain.
My heart has softened and so has my mother. Miracle of love.

I am fully aware that as she loses more and more of her mind, she might easily have become the full-time hissy-fit throwing crazy-woman she was right before she moved. The one who shot out old hurts and resentments as defense, as weapons. She may even go back there yet.

But for this moment, at this time, she has gone back to some time before life hurt her so badly that she would resent her only daughter.

And it is the best thing she could have done for her children.
At least this one. This child.

And as she becomes a different person, so do I.

I am so glad that both of us have lived to see the day.
To be able to say, "I love my mother."

It is raining and I love my mother. It is not a matter of forgiving her for things she's done and said or did not do or did not say. It's just a matter of- this is my mother. She is old. She does really love me, somewhere, somehow. She does.

That's what I'm thinking tonight in Lloyd, Florida at the age of almost fifty-seven. And isn't that something?

I think it is.


  1. This post made me happy. And it hailed here!

  2. I agree with Hanky. I like this post. A lot.

    It's been raining in Asheville all day, and I'm about to pick up Verge from the airport. I'm a happy girl!

  3. Congratulations~ I am very happy for both of you.

  4. i think you've both crossed a good bridge.


  5. Gentleness can have such profound, space-changing effects.

  6. Ah Mary. It's been so hard for you. For so long. I'm glad, so glad, you get to set it down. To relax it. Let it go. Long may it continue.

  7. Good lord in heaven, can I move in there?? :) :)


  8. DTG- Being able to write this post made me happy.
    Really? Dang.
    I love you so much.

    HoneyLuna- All day I have been thinking about you, darling, and how your man is coming home tonight. Kisses to you both. Enjoy.

    Ms. Fleur- If anyone knows the drama, it is you....

    Mrs. A- It would seem so. For now, at least.

    A- God. That is the truth.

    Jo- You get it. You know. Thank you.

    SJ- That's what I keep saying! It's perfection there. I am serious.

  9. This post just made me so, so happy. I love that you're just...I dunno...melting. It's just lovely. How wonderful for it to rain, how wonderful to feel such tenderness for and with your mama.

  10. silverfinofhope- You got it, girl. You got it.

  11. That is all so profound. I'm in awe. There's an effortless to you, to your love that nearly defies reason. Thank you for sharing it a bit with us, for your generosity --

  12. Elizabeth- Honey, this whole thing defies reason. I'm trying not to analyze too much but just to accept and be grateful.

  13. It is awesome. And I found that my mother was so happy in her retirement home and later in assisted living. She was very happy and could not wait to get back there if she came to our house for a visit. You did well.

  14. Thank you for sharing this.

    I have heard miracle defined as a shift in perception.

  15. It IS something. I am so SO glad for you. It makes my heart happy to read this.



  16. I am a friend of Hank's and a total stranger to you, but I just had to comment say I love your blog and what you write is touching and beautiful and funny and smart...and this post especially was lovely and made me happy for you and also reflect on my own roles as mother and daughter. What I get right, what I get gut-wrenchingly wrong. It's tough and ever so complicated to be either in the best of situations. And god what a trainwreck it can become when you throw some real problems into the mix. I'm so very glad there is light peeking into the dark spots for you and your mom. Every mom should get some peace. Every kid should know how much they're loved.

  17. (Saja is good folks and has an adorable little girl.)

  18. Tears, yes. Good stuff Mary.

  19. Goosebumps.

    I think I would like to move to Westminster. Sounds good to me!

  20. Ah, Mary, that really is something! I love you xx

  21. This made me smile. I'm so happy for you.

    I'm hoping that one day I will find myself in the same place.

  22. What a huge thing. Huge! And I'm so glad for you.

  23. Syd- And wasn't that a blessing?

    Andrew- Good definition!

    Ms. Bastard-Beloved- Mr. Moon cried when he read it. And no, he does not cry ALL the time.

    Saja- You are right. Mom's should get some peace, every child should know they are loved. And you know what? I think that if every child DID know that he or she was loved, this would be so much of a better place. Thank-you for coming by and thank-you for commenting. I am so glad to "meet" you.

    DTG- I can tell that Saja is good folks. I hope she comes by often.

    Bethany- Nothing I did, I can tell you that.

    Lora- I'm ready. Jeez, that place is awesome.

    Christina- I love you, too, girl.

    Mel's Way- Hey! If it happened to me....

    Mwa- Hugs to YOU!


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.