Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Half full or half empty?

After 21 years, my mom finally succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer's Disease. She was 74 years old. As we sat down at her bedside these last couple of days, I was a-flood with memories of her. Times when she was there and times when she wasn't quite. It was a little too much of a roller coaster ride for me at times. Unfortunately, my best memories are from recent years when she was less interactive. In these last years, she spent much of her day sitting down, listening to music. We had to feed her, change her, bathe her, etc. Every once in a while, she'd flash a smile or would say, "uh huh!" when we told her that we loved her. Those were the times we looked forward to the most and hence, stand out in my mind.

Everytime she seemed to offer a purposeful response, we'd brag about it to each other. We'd say, "Mom did this or Mom did that". It was like she was holding these little nuggets in reserve just to dole them out in enough quantities to make us feel like we were still her kids, rather than just caretakers. Although, this is a stretch and wishful thinking on my part, it still helped us through. And if you knew my mom 22 years ago, you'd say, "Oh yes, that is just like your mom", because it was just like her.

Even in her last state, which I'm sure was pure misery, she appeared to give rather than take. That is how I choose to remember my mom. She was a giver, never once thinking of her own situation. I think back to when I was 11 years old and there was 1 piece of apple pie left. There was never a question as to who would get it. Mom always gave it to whoever was in line behind her. Then she'd go get the ice cream to make it just perfect. She was that kind of a woman.

My preacher said we have now joined the ranks of the orphans in the world. Although our mom is now deceased, we won't have to worry about her suffering anymore. I'm curious how us kids will respond to the sudden injection of normalcy into our lives. No longer do we have the burden of caring for our mom hanging over our decisions in life. We are now free to engage the world, free to engage our own families without the excuses of having to care for someone else. How will they respond to our attentiveness? How will we put aside our fears and face our own lives? I'll have to admit, it's been very convenient at times, to simply say to people, "Sorry, I can't do that, I have to take care of my mother that day." That excuse is no longer here.

I guess we'll have to all grow up a little bit. I guess we all have to realize we're adults and so we need to live adult-like lives. Once the excuses are peeled away, you're left exposed and that can be a fearful time. So, I'll keep everyone up to date on how we are progressing. Hopefully, we'll follow the examples our parents gave us and meet life head on without excuses and without reservations. I think it's time we all saw life as something to be enjoyed rather than something to be avoided.

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