The sad side of Mother's Day — FranklyStein

Mom and MeMother's Day is not always easy.

This week a friend posted on Facebook that she misses her mom, who died maybe 30 years ago. Many of my friends have lost their mothers — some when they were younger and some more recently. They still find it hard.

It's different for me. My mom has been leaving me slowly over the past 15 years.

At first, she was just a little forgetful. She'd need extra reminders and directions to familiar places. Then she'd leave the toaster oven on or get out of the car and leave it running. We became worried and took her for testing. They said she had a mild cognitive disorder, and that it could progress into dementia or Alzheimer's. She didn't like the testing. She said it was stressful and made her feel stupid. So we stopped asking doctors. They said there was little they could do anyway.

Things progressed slowly but surely. She went from telling us the same story every few days to telling the same story every few minutes. She forgot how to make coffee. She struggled over the simple task of setting the table. Eventually, she forgot who I was.

Over the course of it, I've been able to keep my mother's illness in perspective. We are so lucky that it didn't start sooner. She was a wonderful mother who was always there for me. Right up through the birth of my kids, she was a huge source of support and comfort.

When she started to fade away, I was in a good place. I had grown less dependent on her. My sister, my husband and my friends filled any void she was leaving in my life. I told anyone who asked that I was just grateful I'd had her for as long as I did.

Then a few weeks ago my husband was laid off from his job. The news was a shock, and when I first heard, I was panicked and scared. Suddenly, I desperately wanted to talk to my mom. After all these years of suppressing emotion and looking at her illness practically, I had a surprising and painful ache in my heart. I felt a deep sense of loss for the first time.

These days I don't visit my my mom nearly as much as I should. It's so hard. When I go, I give her a kiss and tell her it's me. She looks up from her wheelchair, and I can see in her eyes that she doesn't know. She doesn't remember all the times I climbed into bed with her in the middle of the night. She doesn't remember serving me sundaes every day after school and watching soap operas with me. She doesn't remember shopping for my wedding dress or comforting me after my miscarriages. She doesn't remember holding Maggie when she was first born, or the days I lugged my three babies over to her house so I wouldn't have to be alone with them.

People say I'm lucky that I still have a mother and that when she's gone, I will feel the loss. But I'm not so sure. Not so very long ago, my mother knew me better than anyone else in the world. Now, she doesn't know me at all. I'm not sure losing her would be harder than that.

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FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Life editor Betsy Stein, who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 18, Lilly, 16, Adam, 16, and Jonah, 12.

 

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