In all of life you take steps ... steps towards something or steps away from something.
It is movement. Nothing is static.
Trying to remember when I stepped forward into the role of care giver has been challenging. The changes in life that preceded mom's move into my house were so subtle - sort of like the movement of a glacier that can only be quantified by looking back to where the glacier was years ago.
But I did try to look back.
Others who have been witness to this progression might think they know exactly when it all began, speak with authority on the choices that were made with each step and feel confident to project just how the outcome could have been different. But unless you actually lived through the whole process in my skin and saw it through my eyes, those opinions are theories.
Mom lived an independent life starting 1970 as a widow. She struggled with uncertainty and unknowns in those initial years but she was a stronger person than she ever believed. I am sure she developed the same thoughts and perspectives that I now hold about myself ...
- that I am capable and self-sufficient enough to not need help,
- that am I sound of mind and body and will never falter because I won't let it happen,
- that I refuse to be a burden to others.
But age, genetics, and normal chemical changes in the aging brain can to rob you of all your plans and expectations. It is stolen from you slowly - almost so slowly as to believe that it is not happening at all.
And so it was with mother.
And when did my concerns for her arise?
I often wonder if the seeds of my concern were buried somewhere in my childhood. There is no one memory that stands out, but the scope of many unhappy memories lumped together would be fertile soil for growth of gratitude toward this woman. And from gratitude would come concern at her failing.
The most startling memories of those from my adult years. I remember when she stopped going to her swim exercise. She said it was because someone had stolen a hair scarf from her locker. It seemed like such a small thing, and yet she gave up swimming - something she had done for years. Why I remember that event is a mystery ... except that it might have been the first tiny little red flag for me. Tiny as to be almost quickly forgotten. She was still doing everything else. What was the concern if she changed her one activity? No big deal, right? ... and yet, I remember. For mom it was a tiny step back. For me it was a tiny step of memory - a memory stored away - a concern - step forward ... for me. That probably was in the 1990s.
Another more significant event in the 90s shook her confidence. She was involved in an auto accident. Her car was hit by a motorist who ran a red light. The impact threw her car across the street landing it on the far sidewalk. Although not visibly injured at the scene, it was later discovered that her pelvis was cracked. I believe the realization of how close she had come to serious permanent injury or death changed her a bit.
The day after her accident I remember going to the tow lot where they had taken her car. The car that hit her had plowed into her car just behind her driver seat - missing her by inches - and destroying the back end of the car - the car appeared to have been bent in half and the back half was total destruction. Upon finding her car on the lot, I remember standing quite still, staring in disbelief at the pile of metal that was mother's Honda Civic, tears streaming down my face at the horror of what could have occurred and the terror she must have experienced at impact. Yes, that experience would shake anyone.
She took a step back in confidence that day. I took a protective step forward to compensate. That was 1997.
Daughter and Care Giver