Almost four months ago, I gave my mother up and moved her in to a facility. “Gave her up” is what I feel like I did, meaning I could no longer be her caregiver. I feel in some ways that I’m a failure, but know for a fact that I’m not. But that feeling creeps in every now and then, and I have to remind myself that what I did was necessary for her and I alike. As my friend Madeline said to me recently: “You are now free to be her daughter again.” And that’s the truth. And although I still manage her care, it’s on a different level which allows me to work, have some fun, and most importantly, be my mother’s daughter again.
My mother has made this transition so easily, really. She has always been someone who understands that life is full of beauty and challenges, and how we accept the things that come our way will dictate how well we live. Even with her dementia, her natural personality still shines through. I know this because I see her smile when she’s resting with her eyes closed. When she’s asleep, she smiles the moment she awakens, brightening up her surrounding atmosphere. She dances a little with an arm in the air while hanging on to her walker with her other hand when a staff member interacts with her. And when I hear people in passing saying things like “She’s so cute, I can’t stand it” or “Look at how beautiful she is” or “I just love her!”, I know she’s still her, sharing her best with others.
Her facility had a Luau today. I found her in her recliner smiling with her eyes closed. I got her to her feet, donned our straw hats and leis, and we went to the festivities. She ate almost two plates of food, played some games, had some cotton candy, and bet on a stuffed animal pig race and won. Then she had a rainbow sherbet and settled in to listen to live Hawaiian music.
She’s still making the best of her life and accepting the good with the bad. I continue to learn from her because she’s my mother and that’s what a mother does…she teaches. And I know I can still learn, especially from someone one who I looked up to and admired my whole life.
So when Mom tells me that her mother sold her house and then it was demolished, and that’s why she has to live where she’s living, I don’t attempt to correct her. I say things like, “Well, looks like you found a great place to live…” and I leave it at that. It’s better for her and I both that she not really understand or remember the truth. Sometimes, believing in alternate explanations is a good thing.