Monday, September 21, 2009

The Complicated Lives of Women

I was glad that the pool was still warm enough that I could swim tonight. I've found this summer that I like being in the pool when I'm sad because no one can really tell that you're crying, even yourself. And today was a hard day that resulted in a few bitter tears. For one, Mother gave me a run for my money today when she called not once, not twice, but three times, livid over her companion. She was demanding that the woman be removed immediately and that she wasn't going to pay for someone to keep her company. Of course, she has had a companion without complaint for the past three weeks now, but today a new, younger girl was present, and she must have said something that set Mother off. The whole tirade was too reminiscent of my last few years with her. She has been often petulant, petty, threatening and stubborn to her own detriment. What I didn't understand initially is that her behavior, which often was like that of a toddler going through the Terrible Two's, was in fact pretty close to just that. Her dementia, which just this last week was officially diagnosed as Alzheimer's, has been regressing her backwards steadily to a point where "Big Baby" isn't that far off the mark. Of course, the difference between a toddler and an elder adult is that the toddler never worked as a Rosie the Riveter, never was a nurse working in emergency rooms, or waited for a husband off fighting two wars, never had to suffer through seven miscarriages, and then had to face the reality that she would only be able to be a mother herself by taking in someone else's child. A toddler has never had those experiences so he or she doesn't have the same incentive to try and hang on to an independence he or she has never had. I should have been more attuned to what was happening, but what I was, sad to say, was just upset. At the time, I was struggling to try and save two daughters. I needed support and empathy, not rancor. I needed a Mother who would salve my aching wounds. What Mother needed was a caregiver who knew how to tread softly. Neither of us got what we needed. Today was just a little too much of the same.

I called the companion service and had the girl removed. They won't send someone back until Mother calls Uncle and admits she is lonely, and lonely she may be because I think my main responsibility has to be the child I actually gave birth to, not inherited via a role reversal.

I need to be a mother for my sole remaining daughter first and foremost. I worry about her health in wake of her sister's death. There was already some concern there before June, with her weight dropping noticeably for no discernible reason. Since Kelsey died, Marissa has struggled, as you might imagine, but made a sincere effort to take care of herself. But, she is unable to gain weight and now she is suffering from acute pains in her back. My natural reaction at the moment is to panic a little. I find that it doesn't take much to make me nearly hysterical with worry. At first, I felt it creeping up on me whenever either Marissa or Greg were out of my sight. The endless possibilities of what bad things could transpire would run through my head as I watched them leave and then would continue to play in my head almost like a record with a needle stuck until they returned. I worked pretty hard to get past that, but I think I need to not be so quick to squelch the panic over this one. What is it they say? Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. Just because I'm worried doesn't mean there isn't anything to worry about. And that has to be my larger concern. Mother has had her full life. This is her time to wind down. Marissa deserves a chance to ramp up and find her own path. So, I reason, as long as Mother has good care, she needs to be second in my pecking order once again.

And then, finally, I miss my oldest daughter. Our therapist warned me that I would regress from time-to-time. It began as I made signs for this weekend's garage sale. I needed a marker and knew my daughter, the artist, would have some. I pulled open one of her drawers and was greeted by her scent. Clearly, she had reached in repeated times with her perfumed hand, and the scent had been captured there in the intervening months of inactivity. Just a brief hint of Chance by Chanel as it mixed with her body chemistry without the accompanying taint of the bitter smell of the bulimia or her sweat from working in a sandwich shop because it was the only kind of job she could get as sick as she was. I closed the drawer quickly and went about the business of advertising the sale of her childhood trappings. Then, the next day, the memory of that smell still with me, I chatted up countless strangers who came to look over my varied wares, often passing up the things that meant so much to Kelsey. I actually enjoyed meeting the people who crossed my path on Saturday and was heartened by how the people who populate Middle America are still a pretty good group. I even got to hold a rare breed of parrot, who took a shine to me. But, in trying to smile and tell the story of how it came to pass that I was trying to hock my kids' childhood memories without lying but without telling the whole story either, I ended up just obsessing on the little girl I lost to a big, bad disease.

I wish I could not think about all of this and just watch the tie ball game that's on right now. But. as a woman, I have to worry about it all, I think. I seem to have no choice. It seems to be hard coded in my DNA.

1 comment:

  1. I think you are making the right choice in priorities. I don't think you are being paranoid either. You are thinking clearly - much better than I would be doing, that's for sure.