I took a break from writing this post, simply because I needed time to think and really process it all. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, I took on the task of caring for my grandmother while my own mother was tending to her unexpected health issues (hospital stay included). The last time I saw my grandmother (abuela) was just a few weeks ago after she had a fall that caused a significant decline in her health. Who I saw was not the same person. Sure I’ve known that she has dementia and have been watching the slow effects of it take its course. And I know that age has opened the door to more diagnoses and health issues than previous years. Yes she is blind in one eye and is not as mobile as before, but this woman I really didn’t know. Sitting with her that evening I stroked her hair and cried, I couldn’t hold back the tears as she stared off to something beyond me. Her speech was slurred and she jumped from one subject to the next, not knowing who I was and then remembering briefly. Mainly speaking Spanish, she didn’t even comprehend my attempted responses. Needless to say reality set deep within me that night. I cried on the way home, Mike held my hand and I didn’t speak much…what was there to say?
So when my dad called to ask for help with abuela I knew I needed to take the time off, especially since my mother wasn’t able to even care for herself at the moment. With Kai in tow, we arrived shortly after noon. She was propped on the sofa upstairs watching some Hispanic drama on t.v. The next several hours were ones I don’t want to forget. Aside from juggling Kai until he surrendered to nap time, every moment seemed to be a mix of emotions. At times our brief conversation seemed so clear, then she would doze off and completely forget what she said. Often repeating herself and telling me how delicious the coffee I made her was, most of our time was spent with long pauses and broken pieces of who she once was. She asked me if certain people were stopping by or assigned tasks to random children playing outside. I didn’t cry this time. Truthfully I was too exhausted. By the time my parents returned home from having tests done on my mother, I felt ashamed and saddened that this is what everyday looked like now for my mom. Ashamed in the sense that I had no idea.
Clinging on to the fact that you take care of family…I just didn’t realize it looked like this. Picking up a frail and fragile body, assisting to go to the restroom, hand feeding, bathing, comforting, and somewhat normalizing the road of their aging is hard. It’s a type of hard that bears on your soul and your body. My mother is a strong woman. Stands at 5’11” and has a heart of gold, but even the strongest cannot bear this type of weight alone. I’m still sorting through my emotions from just one day…how do you sort through them daily? I’m not sure if you can.
Mom I write this to you and in honor of other daughters who are caring for their mothers now. Struggling through the guilt of being exhausted from the intensity of care, but holding fast to the truth that no one will ever care for her like you do. I understand why you don’t want to place your mother into a nursing home…I get it. You’re a wonderful mother and I know there is a beauty and blessing that she has you for a daughter. I still feel various emotions and my thoughts are jumbled simply because it’s one of those moments in life you have to experience to understand. Some of you have, and it’s a place that not many people can uplift your spirits in. My heart goes out to you and your love is not in vain.