Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Beware of angry octogenarians.

I visited with my mother last night. When I left I made one of those silly vows I know I'll never keep -- I'm never going to visit her again, I whispered to myself as I left the care facility where she's at. I know it's not true.

She's my mother. She's 85. She's in hospital. She needs some kind of peace of mind, some kind of serenity in whatever time she has left to spend amongst us.

I know I will go back and visit and work to maintain my balance, my calmness. I know I will struggle against lashing out. Against railing up against what I perceive to be the injustice of her judgements of me. I know I will hide my tears, my hurt, my anger until I've left her presence and can let it out when I'm alone in the quiet of my car.

I feel these feelings of sadness washing over me and I grieve. Perhaps it is that I had such hopes of what we would have, of what we could share when she was free of the haze that has enshrouded her.

Perhaps I am using the haze of her self-medication as an excuse for her bad behaviour? Perhaps I am unwilling to do what it is I accuse her of not being willing to do -- face the truth of my own thoughts and feelings.

Guilt. Why can't I be a better daughter? Why can't I just let her words wash over me? Why do I have to question her when she makes statements that rankle, that niggle away at my well-being?

It was one of her comments about how mean I've always been to her that gave rise to my question last night.

"Now that you've quit yelling at me and being mean to me I'm much happier," she said as we sat in her room chatting about her day.

I slipped and stepped in to defend myself. "I don't yell at you."

She gave me her, 'don't be ridiculous, of course you do look.' "You have always yelled at me and been mean. Even as a teenager." She paused. She wasn't looking at me. She was looking straight ahead at the wall beside my head. "But it's okay. Now that you've come back to us, you're a nice person. You're not as mean to me as often," she said.

I know I should have left it there, walked away, taken a breath. Instead, I took the bait and bit down. "What's in it for you mum to believe I am always mean to you? Why is that important?"

"It's not," she replied. "I'm just saying the truth. I have to speak the truth. They've told me here that keeping the truth inside is what hurts me."

There are some truths best left unspoken.

"Do you know it really, really hurts when you say those things mom. When you tell me over and over what a mean person you see me as."

"I told you. I don't think you're as mean now. You're a much better person than you used to be since you came through all your troubles." She sighed. She still wasn't looking at me. "I always felt so sorry for you. You had such a hard life."

Now, there's one thing that pushes my button. It is to be pitied.

Fortunately, this button is readily acceptable to my thinking. I've had lots of practice dealing with it when in communication with my mother. I remembered to breathe.

"I don't look at my life as hard. I look at it as a wonderful adventure filled with opportunities to grow and learn and become all that I am meant to be. I feel blessed to have had the life I've lived."

"Don't be ridiculous," my mother hissed. "It was a horrible life."

And that's when it hit me. My mother wasn't speaking of me, or my journey. She was speaking of her own life. Her pain. Her sorrow. Her sadness.

For most of my life I have distanced myself from my mother. To be close, I had to trust her not to lash out -- and I didn't trust her. I knew that no matter how sweet and kind she was in this moment, there would come a time when her need to 'feel bad' would cause her to dig into my psyche and inflict pain. It is her way.

I know this and still it hurts.

I breathe again. She is my mother. I examine my accountability for what transpired last night.

I was tired. As I drove towards the hospital I reminded myself to breathe, to stay calm, to stay centered. "You're feeling off-centered, Louise. Don't give into the pull to step out of your light."

When I arrived at the hospital my mother was in a session with a group of women. She saw me, waved and I motioned I would go to her room and wait.

I waited. The impatient thirteen-year-old in my head, the one who likes to act out when I'm in my in my mother's presence, began to stir.

Five minutes. Ten minutes. Maybe I should just leave her a note and go?

Fifteen minutes later she wheeled her walker into the room. "I couldn't leave when you came," she told me. "It was coming up to my turn to speak."

Little alarm bells started clanging in my head. I could hear the voice of my 13 year old whining inside, clamouring for a say in the conversation. "When do I come first? When do I become more important than telling your story to anyone who will listen?"

The 13 year old is ever present when I am in my mother's presence. Over the years I figure I've done a good job of getting out of the five year old stomping foot and pouting mouth position I used to regress to when in contact with my mother. I've advanced 8 years!

Unfortunately, it's not far enough.

My mother is who she is. It's not up to me to change her, or to try to make her see my POV. Empathy is not high on my mother's list of favourite attributes.

It's up to me to turn up and be the adult. To reassure my 13 year old that my mother can't hurt her with her words. That she is safe within me.

Gotta go visit my teenager and apologize. I slipped up. I regressed.

Not the end of the world. But the ennui of having left myself open to my mother's attack burns.

To ease the heartache I need to centre myself once again in my truth. I am a fearless woman touching hearts and opening minds to set spirits free.

I need to look at myself in the mirror and love the woman I see reflected back in the wonder of my eyes. I am a woman of worth. A woman of substance. A woman deserving of love.

She is an 85 year old woman looking for someone to explain why she is in the place she's at. She is moving out of her independent living. Giving up everything, as she reminded me last night. "I'm willing to sacrifice my wine, my freedom, my baking, everything I do to make you and your sister happy. I'm willing to do this for you and still you don't trust me. You'll never trust me."

There is so much my mother cannot face. Cannot deal with. She has had a lifetime struggling to deny her problems. She is frightened and scared.

"What if you were to accept the things you've done, good, bad and indifferent and simply forgive yourself?" I asked her.

"I'm not ready to forgive myself," she replied.

Fearful of facing a past she cannot escape, she cannot forgive herself.

I can. Forgive her. Forgive myself. And move with grace and ease into love.

She is my mother. The woman who gave birth to my life. She did the best she could. She gave it all she had.

If it isn't enough for me today -- I need to go look in my mirror. She is not responsible for my life today. I am.

I breathe. The sadness, the grief, the sorrow flows quietly away into the river of love that bouys me up. Feelings of sadness pass. Love endures.

The question is: What are you clinging to because you're afraid to face yourself in the mirror and love the wonder you see reflected in your eyes?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


a psychologist helped me deal with my 'mother issues' which, as I gather, were a novel written by the same sicko who created mine; she taught me this: 'to resolve your issues with your mother will likely never be a dialogue, you have to do it on your own and do it for you because she will likely never be part of the discussion' . .which was true both before and after her death

we can pick our friends but we can't pick our relatives

we can, however, choose how we deal with them

with every good wish,