April 02, 2011

Aging Parents and Relationships

My mom with my youngest son - July 2010
I live in Iowa.  My mother lives in New York.  My father died in 2002.  I just got off the phone with my mom.

My mom is 81 and it wasn't until 3 months ago that I started to notice that she is now being affected by old age.  We talk on the phone and usually she does most of the talking and I listen, but I have started to notice that she does not remember things or she tells me things that I know did not happen.  As an example, I told her about our upcoming trip to Washington, D.C. in June.  She asked me if I remember when I was a kid and our family went to D.C.  I did remember this.  It was 1969 and I was 10 years old.  That was one of my favorite childhood memories. 

She told me that we went to D.C. twice and I was probably too young to remember the other time.  I know this isn't true and I believe she has this "fictional" second trip to D.C. mixed up with her trip to D.C. with my dad on their honeymoon. 

Then there is the sadness of old friends of hers dying and that her "boyfriend" of a couple of years has health problems.  Driving is becoming more and more difficult for her and then there are the memory issues that are typical for a woman her age. 

It's hard seeing your parents grow old and it was hard on all of us when my father passed away.  It is harder to see my remaining parent deteriorate.  We live far apart from each other and have for over 30 years.  I fear that in a year or so, she may just give up on herself and then she will go down hill. 

The past 10 years have been hard as my only other sibling broke from our family and in essence shunned us.  My sister has nothing to do with me or my mom, nor does her husband or 3 daughters.  Worse yet, my sister lives in the same area as my mom and she could do so much more than I can do from a distance, but won't.  She has chosen to cut us off entirely and she won't acknowledge us. 

If you're wondering what happened,  none of us knows and I think it is more a mental health issue than anything else.  I know one thing for sure, you can't make someone have a relationship with you when they don't want to.  So I have given up trying.  Yes, I have tried for over 10 years to reach out to my sister and she has pushed me away over and over, so I have finally given up and moved on.

But, for my mother, try as hard as she can, it is almost unbearable for her to have a daughter completely cut her off.  Worse yet, not being able to see your 3 granddaughters has been probably the most difficult for my mom to endure.  Imagine the Christmases and birthdays that pass by with my mother alone while her daughter, son in law and 3 granddaughters live 10 minutes away. 

After all of this time, it has finally affected my mother.  No matter how many phone calls I make, nor how many vacation trips I take to New York, no matter how I show my love to my mother, she still mourns for the prodigal daughter and the lost relationship with her and her grandchildren.

I wish with all my heart that I had the kind of relationship with my sister that other women have with their sisters.  I look back to my childhood and growing up years and I now see that my sister probably had some problems that got worse as she grew older.  Because she does not think there is anything wrong with her, she will never see a therapist.  Instead we're the problem.  There are situations in our lives that we have to endure because they are out of our control.  I'm not giving up but I am letting go. 

As to my mother, I can't make up for what my sister and her husband and children have done to her, but I can at least try to be the best daughter I can for her and do whatever I need to do to help her be happy and comfortable. I am loyal and I am the most empathetic person in the world.  I love my mom and when she dies someday, I can stand and hold my head high knowing that I was a good daughter and I took care of her and made sure her needs were met.  There will be no regrets on that day.


HDNelson said...

I am just saddened for all parties concerned here - but I commend you for your integrity.

judy said...

I understand somewhat how you feel. My mom lives with us, but she has lost her husband, friends, and sadly a relationship with my sister also. My sister has extreme mental issues which make a relationship impossible. But it still breaks our hearts.

I know that you are best daughter, and the love you feel for your mom definitly comes through


tammyyarbrough said...

It seems as if I could havve written this myself. My mother moved in with us for about 2 years ago a few years back, until it became very difficult-to say the least- on my own well being, as well as hers. She has a lot of medical issues, and has since been diagnosised with easy dimentia. We have found her an assisted living community that's 5 miles away where I'm able to "take care of her", but to a far less emotionally draining way. She's surrounded by people her own age and loves seeing my son several times a week. I love her uncondionally, and she knows this.

I, too have a sister much like yours. Don't understand it, can't wrap my head around it, and have stopped many years ago. It is very hurtful to us all, and maybe someday she'll open her eyes- maybe not, but none the less we will be here to love her.

We just keep being the best friend, mother, wife, daughter, listener, person etc we can and that's all that we can do =}

Kris Watson said...

I didn't realize what a common dynamic this is.... Oddly, it's almost helpful to know that. My Dad died a week ago today, and mom has had early dementia, which is worsening with this traumatic loss. My dad was not a very nice person. My sister adored him, and hated my mom, to the point of calling her foul names to her face and telling her that it ought to be her that was dying. So, while I don't want to make this about me, I do want you to know that I understand.

The only way I have gotten through this last week is to focus on my sister's needs, realize she is completely unstable and inappropriate, and try not to rile her up for the sake of the family. Thursday is the graveside service, and after that I hope to find a way move around her and on to the rest of my life.

Yeah, great job of not making it abou tme. Sorry, it's fresh stuff.

cmm said...

I have been reading your blog, from the beginning and have enjoyed it alot!

This post, today, really hit home.

It could be me writing this, only, instead of a sister, it is my brother and my heart is broken. But, just yesterday, I realized, I have to let it go. It's not me, it's him, and I need to begin to mourn the loss of him, because he's been "gone" from us for 10 years now and I'm tired of trying. It's really sad.