“Breathe in, breathe out…”

Some days there is just no way around things. Some days there is very little good, competent conversation. I am trying so hard to let go of all expectations. Some days I can do that. Some days it is next to impossible. Today was one of those next-to-impossible days. My mom has always had a sharp tongue. She has always been rather bitter and quite often, very cruel in her comments. When I told friends I have had for many years that my mom would be coming to live with us, they were in shock. Several questioned why I would do that, because my mom and I do not have a peaceful history. During HS and college, it was pretty bad. I moved out the minute I turned 18. Ha-Ha. But I knew this was something I should do, because, regardless of how poorly we get along or communicate, she is my mom.

I have a friend on Facebook who cares for her mom in her home, too. Her mom has frontal temporal dementia, and it affects her a little differently. She regularly posts videos of her mom and they just melt my heart. Her mom is so gentle and sweet, but you cannot understand a thing she says. She is constantly talking, but it is all gibberish. Every once in awhile, you can distinctly hear, “I love you,” and each time she says it, she kisses her and it just melts my heart. The kisses can be on her shoulder, or she will grab her hand, or just lean into her. My friend and her mom have worked out a way to communicate. Most of the time it is a guessing game, but they are making it work. Those of us who are privy to these videos have been blessed by the moments we have seen.

When I was younger, math was my obstacle to having a sensical, successful, life. I am not a math person. I love science. I really do not like math. Numbers are fun. The whole thing with “9s” is kind of cool. But when you add in unknowns to an equation and slap in the alphabet, you lose me. My dad, an engineer (not only am I the daughter of an engineer, I am also married to one) could not understand, why I could not understand, Algebra. I recall my first parent-teacher conference when he and my Algebra I teacher, Mr. Houser, got along like two old friends. Both of them chatting away and simultaneously looking at me, and both saying, “It’s right in front of her; I don’t know why she doesn’t understand this…” Ugh. And to this day, I can handle hand-written spreadsheets, and I can even function fairly well using things like “Numbers” on my Mac or even an Excel sheet on a PC. But my forte is on the other end of the spectrum…words. Love to read. Love history. Love discussion. Love learning new things about other places, people, and things. I am common-sense oriented.

Mom and I have always been like oil and water – we don’t mix well. She is so quick and sharp in her speech and her judgement, I was often left reeling, wondering what just happened. It is like living with a tsunami or volcano – you just never know when or how you will be overrun. And I have tried to not be like that. I have worked hard at being kind. I have worked hard to be more silent, and less judgmental. My eldest son taught me a huge lesson about that, which I have never forgotten. (I blogged about that in an earlier post, referencing tattoos and outward appearances). My mom, at one point, had mellowed. But we all realized after my stepdad passed away, that he was great at managing her, and she accepted it. And this was also before her Alzheimer’s kicked in. Now, there are no social constraints on mom. She says what she is thinking, when she is thinking it. And she is so confused. She believes she is making sense. She thinks she knows what is going on, and that she is making sense. She just, this minute, asked me, “Where did Frank go?” I had to tell her he had died 5 years ago. Then she asked me where her apartment key was. I explained that she lived in my house, with me. Sigh. Earlier today she yelled at me and when I asked her what she meant, she informed me that “anyone else in this world would have understood that.” Yeah. I had said, “Pardon me, mom, I don’t understand what you mean.” Because you cannot say, “Excuse me” or she will move out of your way. Ha-Ha. The joys of being raised by a Brit.

Every once in awhile, you get to that breaking, snapping point. The expression, “My give-a-damn is busted” seems appropriate today. And so, I left my mom in her “apartment,” fuming because I refused to engage her anymore. When I walk away, it makes her even madder, because by walking away, I am not giving fuel to her tsunami or volcano…I am throwing a bucket of cold water on it. I am moving “above the fray.” And I practice my deep breathing. I center myself. I pray. And I took a shower, all by myself, without her coming in, because I locked my door. Above the fray…lol. Whatever it takes to keep the peace. Breathe in, breathe out….

UPDATE: Of course, God always, always has lessons for us. As I struggled with mom up until I was helping her into bed, she grabs me around the neck and says, “Jan (she used my name – huge!) I love you so much. I could not get through my days without you. I am so proud of you. You are a wonderful woman. I love you.” Again, this is why I love my mom. When she is in full mom-mode, there is no one like her. Sigh.

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