My Mother and I love each other despite the fact that as adult women we have lived together for over 40 years. Shared genetics does not in any way guarantee this.

Amazing huh?

I’d like to tell you that it’s because she and I are incredible, giving women who have never fought or disagreed, certainly if we did so, malice was largely absent. I’d like to affirm to you that we have responded with grace and kindness in every little hiccup that life has thrown at us. I’d like to tell you that we are so alike, loving each other is like loving ourselves.

Okay, we aren’t that, and that wouldn’t be true.

I can account for our situation in one way only. It’s because we both love Jesus and we pray.

Seriously. I am not kidding.

Many times it could have gone the other way.

Take last week, a product of more months than that…

If you have followed my inconsistent writing for the last year, you know that Mother has had some serious health issues the last 3 years. Serious enough that anyone else would have probably keeled over by now.  But my Mother, no. When an oncologist tells you that the barely 100 pound green eyed, 85 year old patient in front of him is strong, and mutters under his breath as he leaves, “heck maybe I should get on chemo” you might want to adjust your preconceived notions of what “strong” looks like.

It gets even more amazing.

Mother broke her hip in August. She didn’t lose her balance, she butt-dove for the porch swing at the new barn on the farm and it swung out from under her. Do you have any idea what the prognosis of 85 year olds with multiple comorbidity factors and intertrochanteric hip fractures is? Finally after 4 days of waiting, her half-glass-empty-she’ll-die-in-a-few-weeks-rather-than-a-year-if-we-don’t-do-the-surgery orthopedic implanted a rod the length of her femur. Hospital staff pleaded for us to put her in a nursing home but Mother without her pups made nursing home rehab seem like an untimely death sentence.

Top that off with this:

Since August, since her string of illnesses started, Mother and I have changed. Our relationship has changed. Even if you are strong, age is age. And while I might be inclined to put thoughts I think my mother thinks down on paper, I do know that despite what I consider amazing physical stamina, there is a mental tiredness that the elderly are entitled to, that is eventually a part of who they are, of who she is now. It’s taken me a long time to recognize that. It’s taken even longer to accept it. I creates a situation where a mother and her daughter must rethink their roles.

One thing was for certain, if Mother’s dependence on me was significant before, hip breakage now made it all consuming.  And not just for me but for my men as well. No one in our family had any idea what the limits of  “Janet Care” were now..  and it brewed a tenseness.

So far I haven’t said a word that tells you what Mother’s perspective might have been.

She is an 85 year old woman, taking maintenance chemo every 3 weeks “until it quits working” with a broken hip that “will hurt the rest of her life”.

August and September were awful.

Over the four months she moved from the hospital bed in the living room to the the study at the top of our stairs. At the beginning of November she requested that this change of residence be made permanent. The apartment she had lived in for almost 4 decades no longer proved to be the sweet, solitary refuge it had been.

So now starts the confession of why I said what I did at the beginning of this story.

“Bring that brown lawn chair up here.” Mother says, commanding that the miscellaneous crap that has accumulated in the study be moved to who knows where and replaced apparently by other crap.

“Mother, I am NOT bringing that crappy old lawn chair from the patio in here!!” I bellowed.

“You are a mean woman, Janet,” she counters, screaming. “You are always trying to manipulate me. You never let me do anything I want.”

We are squatters running a pissing contest which is not the stuff of supernatural grace.

I am seriously wanting to scream at her that this is my house and she’s lucky she’s had 24/7 Janet-Care. At the same time, a little something is pulling at my heart that for the first time in months she’s shown some interest in her surroundings. I push those thoughts to a place less generous.  Meanwhile Mother’s thinking that her world has narrowed to a study at the top of her my home, the Pearly Gates are likely closer than ever,  and her leg hurts and she really doesn’t want to try anymore. (Later, she will be caught in the act of head down praying, but for now, she’s nursing her pride and saying things that she knows to be untrue.) Righteous glaring stares out of both sets of green eyes,  I stomp off to my room four feet away, mad as hell and she limps ever more exaggerated and dangerously (read Drama queenish) over to her lonely bed where there is no crappy outdoor furniture to sit in.

Expecting her to be properly acquiescent the next morning, admitting my denial of her request was not only right but damn right, I find myself wondering if she even remembers that we had a fight and I won.

She’s downright beguilingly flattering in her admonition to enjoy church.

I drive to church robed in confusion.

And what does my Mother, who has been in danger of another, life ending fall these last several months do while I am at church trying to resist any kind of supernatural pricking? Does she sit and think about the error of her ways?  Why no, that little 100 pound weakling, who sometimes has to crawl up the stairs, she is so weak and infirm, proceeds to hobble to the porch, grab the rather ungainly round, saucer chair, drag it up a flight of stairs, and then organize it in her new bedroom.

To say I was mad when I got home is an understatement.

I may have screamed that 24/7 Janet Care was over.

******************

It is difficult to be profoundly ill. It is equally difficult to give care. If my Mother’s and my relationship has been tested, this time in our lives surely must be the hardest. Yet, the truth, born on sweet thoughts from the place where the Holy Spirit prompts actions that are beyond human ability, would tender that story above to the following truths.

  • There will always be a need for balance in any relationship no matter the particulars. (Janet needed to stop trying to insure that her Mother never fell again. That was an impossible goal anyway. And Doris needed to do things on her own, even if she didn’t want to.)
  • It is important to examine your own heart to know why you are doing something. (This is really hard to do. I think only God can show you and then give you strength to remedy. For Janet this meant to let go of pride. What the hell difference does it make if there is a lawn chair in her house. And oh my gosh, Janet needed to tell her mother that actually the chair looked quite nice.  lol God just never gives up.  Janet will do this today.)
  • If you are reading this, you have been ill or you will be ill. You have taken care of someone, or you have been taken care of. None of that is easy or ever will be. No situation is must like mine. I hope, no I pray you have the supernatural power to guide you. It certainly makes for love that passes all understanding.
  • Love wins. God is love.