I have been absent from my Blog for a while. In this away period I have been working on editing my book in between the call of my daily life. I am including the prologue to my book, a work in progress.
In the spring of 2007 my widowed mother left her place of birth and a lifetime of living in Indiana and moved to my home in Upstate New York. It had been apparent to me and my siblings for some time that Mom was struggling to live on her own. But, my mother’s independent streak and her fierce Irish-German stubbornness did not allow her to leave her residence of fifty years easily.
When Mom moved in with my family and me, I thought she was still grieving the death of my father, her husband of over fifty years. I had learned Mom no longer participated in the activities she once enjoyed; she rarely ventured out of her home. All signs of depression I assumed. Naively, I believed that once Mom came to live with me she would find a new direction in life from the love my family would give her. I hoped that my relationship with Mom would evolve into the nurturing, mother-daughter connection I had sought for years. Yet, after only a few short weeks it became quite apparent all of my assumptions were completely wrong.
Learning my mother had dementia, although not truly shocking, was not the ending I had in mind for our story together. Eventually, during the six years that she lived with or near me we did develop a new relationship. One I had not considered, but, still based on trust and love. Getting to that final rapport took years of struggle between us. In the beginning it was who is the child; who is the parent? Later, that trust was required to let a loving bond blossom into total faith that decisions made on her behalf were for the best.
My emotional journey also sparked a transition of my faith. My feelings about established religion had been evolving for several years. Soon after Mom moved in with me, I stopped my rare attendance at mass. My choice had nothing to do with my mother. Rather, it was a decision that had been growing within me. I felt more in touch with my idea of God when I was out in nature, or doing an activity with my friends or family. Mass became a ritual that I dreaded and consequently attained nothing from. Yet, the more involved I got with Mom’s care, the more aware I became of an inner voice guiding me. I am by character a non-confrontational person. Still, as I heard myself questioning doctors, working with insurance companies, dealing with family members and lawyers, I found the words coming from my lips sometimes were not my own. I had not thought to say them, yet there they were being said. I began to call my inner guidance my Angels. It was through this realization that my spirituality grew and I connected with these higher beings that were sent to guide and comfort me. I believe it was my Angels who first directed me to begin writing.
I did not write my thoughts down immediately upon my mother’s arrival. It was only after many months that the need to release my growing frustrations began to take shape. I joined a writing group at a local book store because I felt driven by my inner sense, what I call my Angels, to put my feelings into written word. During my first session I met a group of ladies and we formed a lasting bond that strengthened as we each transformed into writers. It was this group and our instructor that gave me the courage to record my feelings. Even then, I did not believe I would take my thoughts and turn them into the book that follows. As my writing developed, I realized my essays could be a comfort to those walking zombie like through the days of unknown dementia care and decisions as I was. Consequently, I continued in my pursuit of finishing this book not only for myself but for others who would walk down the path my mother had taken me. I hope it will bring them comfort and the knowledge they are not alone in their struggles.
To do justice to the 85 year life my mother led I have given you, the reader, a brief history of Mom’s life. I felt that was important so that you too can understand the sorrow I felt in watching this woman, who accomplished so much, slide into nothing.
The essays written about the journey Mom and I took together fall in chronological order. It is my hope that you will garner some camaraderie from my honesty, frustration, laughter, unexpected hurt and overall grief. This book is for all of us struggling together in what I call, The Caretaker Nation.