Mother/daughter angst is hard to explain. Not in the general sense but in that intimate way where the smaller nuance of expression can turn a daughter’s head around but from the outside really, what is the big deal.  But as the daughter, standing in this daughter place, the challenges are there, the triggers continually happen, the actions and reactions find that familiar rhythm that is as old as I am.
I think about writing about my mom. But then I don’t. My first instinct is not to. I think I am not brave enough. But something is calling me now. For when I picture time having passed and writing about her later on I feel this feeling that I am missing something. That there is significance in writing now. That the vulnerability that comes with this writing of passage is important. That I cannot miss this even though I do not know what this is. 

Because the feelings are hard and because my mom will read this. And my dad, too. And while these words are an honoring, they are also words of challenge and frustration and this is hard to share. 

This most recent need to write about my mom comes on the heels of my visit last week. The culmination of a week with my parents ending with my reading aloud to my dad the writing my sister and I wrote about him created a lacking feeling. That my mom needed a writing, too. That this was this something I had to do. 

And so on the plane on the way home I started this. I wanted it to be a writing that was light and joyous and honored all the good that is my mom. But instead what came out was fast and raw and I knew that this early writing six days before a writing was due was necessary because I needed time to sit on this. To reread and revisit and rewrite if need be. This one. It is hard. 

You see, my mom has a form of dementia that makes her lose words as the language center of her brains dies. As I write that sentence it autocorrects to worlds. Lose worlds. Appropriate as she is losing worlds, too. 

For along with language comes the loss of comprehension. And the loss of knowing. Names lose their meaning. Friends become unrecognizable. Events fall away and moments drift by and often times she is not quite sure. 

And this is hard. As her daughter. For along with the loss of all these things and more that I am sure I still don’t know there is an accentuation of those things that have always challenged me as her daughter.

I read this beginning of this writing to my husband.  ​I started writing about my mom but don’t really want to/am worried about sharing it/maybe I shouldn’t I said to him. And then I read it to him and he said it is beautiful and you need to finish this. 

So here I am.

This past week with my parents was a beautiful week. Being with them is necessary. And it is important. And it is filled with love and joy and fun. Lots of fun. And along with this it is filled with the hard fact that my mom is struggling. A lot. And I am, too.

I am usually a better version of myself when I am with her. I am patient. But it is a sad patience because it sits in this place of detachment. A necessary coping because without it I cannot stand in compassion and caring.  

This past week the place I created to support and love my mom as she journeys through this awful disease abandoned me and I stood in the rawness of having to respond without my boundaries on full alert. And I behaved badly.  

I could not disengage and I could not be kind. I heard the edge in my voice as I answered her questions and felt my body pull back as she sought to encircle me in love. And each time I saw this, in the moment that I was in this, I spoke small words to myself to step back and regroup and remember that this is not about me at all, really and so step up as the best of myself so I can be the best me for her. And then the next interaction would happen and I was deep in it again in that dark way that is so not fair to her because it is so not how I want to show up for her.

I thought I did not care. My coping of my lacking was to tell myself that this was ok. That I had closure and completeness. That the lack of an emotional connection with my mom being this elusive thing was just what it was and was ok.  

But then, I as write this, I see that this is not true. That there is grief and loss in this. That the disconnect, whether in this most recent interaction of impatience and frustration or even in the more accepting dynamic of caring and nurturing, still is a detachment from my mom. And so a loss of mother.  

I did not see this until just this moment.

My mother-in- law died in December and we had her memorial service in January. I wrote a piece about her and read it aloud at the service. And, as I walked up to share my words, I started to cry. This surprised me. I did not think I felt the loss of her until I was there, standing in the loss of her.

This feeling I have, right at this moment, writing this writing, this is that same surprise. That there is loss here. That I miss my mom. Even as she is still here with me.

It is important and it is good that I see this now. I hope I can hold on to this. 
Elizabeth Rose
My Mother’s Dementia, Balancing Grief and Detachment was last modified: by

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