I said that I had more to write about those three weeks with my mom and I deliver.
It was a trip that was overwhelming with all the things to process. The actual things, the emotional things, the outrageous things, me wrestling with my conflicting things, and then the biggest thing.
The loneliness thing.
My mother had her mother for several years as her bickering buddy, her television watching companion, her people-judging partner, her fellow gossip gal, and dining companion.
They laughed, they bitched, they screamed at each other; but through it all, they weren’t alone.
Until Mimi died.
The one thing in which I differ greatly from my mother is that I am most content to be alone. I believe she has always been a social creature but too afraid to put herself out there. Mimi carried her socially. Was it social anxiety?
Mom had few friends of her own. She liked groups in her youth. A gang of friends with whom to spend time. She had a couple close friends in Germany but after moving to the States they held a fairly infrequent correspondence until that eventually faded away.
In the end, she had her mother, Mimi. They were friends in a loving, and yet, volatile way. Like a Debbie Reynolds-Carrie Fisher way, I suppose. Or maybe mix between a Joan and Christina Crawford way.
Their downs were dramatic for certain.
After Mimi was laid to rest, one would think that mom would have had an Earnshaw epiphany and realized now she had the freedom to really live.
I think she had some of it, but it was my sister who now carried her. Mom was not ever going to be brave enough to independently seek happiness for herself, make new friends, or build a career.
I think after the disease took hold and really presented itself, my sister could no longer carry her socially and the role of patient to caregiver began.
This meant hiring in care workers while my sister worked and it meant hours Mom went without human interaction. She could not drive anymore due to macular degeneration stealing her vision and the LBD made it risky for her to venture out to visit with nearby neighbors. (Although, most nearby she had some bone to pick with at some point.)
You and I both know we can go hours on end without any interaction except for television, books, music or the internet and relish in it.
However, imagine yourself blind and all that self entertainment is dependent upon your sight. Operating remote controls, not knowing what’s going on in a program (if you do manage to fumble your way to a show to watch) due to simply music and no dialogue. Much is lost.
Inevitably, loneliness sets in.
This is now an Eleanor Rigby stanza.
While I was there she had the 7/24 company she hadn’t had in years. We talked and watched shows, listened to audio books and dined together. The one thing I wished we could have done was taken walks together. She simply wasn’t steady enough on her feet to do that, however.
Having to return was the single most conflicting action of my life. I’m needed in my own family but I was beneficial there too. Every time I took a trip to the store I saw opportunities to just uproot and stay there. But it would mean starting over. There are no real job prospects in that area and it would mean forcing the whole family to forsake their paths for my sense of responsibility.
There seemed to be no right answer on this. Deep down, I believe I should have stayed longer. Everything inside me screamed I was failing her, I was failing my sister and I was failing my sense of responsibility toward family.
But I have an immediate family too–you and your father.
I knew when I returned, I wasn’t totally myself because I focused on her loneliness. Leaving her back to the hours on end without interacting with others. She spent some time in a nursing home facility after I left, so she had more contact with others but she fell while there a few times. The trade off did not seem to balance in my opinion.
I made it a point to call her after I got back and it was a hit or miss when she would answer the phone. When she did, it was clear that our conversations would be superficial and tiring for her as she struggled to complete thoughts. I don’t want to frustrate her at all. So making the calls seems to be reopening a wound over and over for her.
This disease is complicated and difficult to know exactly how to help from this distance to combat the loneliness. I want help but I want her to rest as well.
My advice to you is to treat those who may be suffering from loneliness the way you would wish to be treated if you felt alone. Just be sure that in your efforts you are doing good in the process and not creating more pain. Take care with your intentions and act accordingly.