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Family Dynamics

My Mother's Daughter

As I matured, one of my biggest fears was that I would turn into my mother, who I experienced during my teen years as an angry, critical person, who was never satisfied with me.  "Why can't you bake gingerbread cookies like Lil's daughter?"  my mother once asked me; at 13, I just shrugged.
 
Now it's 2010, I am 67 and my mother is 94.  When she developed mild dementia at age 90 and could no longer live alone in Florida, we got help.  Then the money ran out.  Now she lives with me, her oldest daughter.  My husband who watched his father detoriate in a nursing home from Parkinson's disease, agrees that having her here is the right thing to do -- but not the easiest.
 
The adjustment included anger and crying -- Mom and I -- but we got through it.  Now, almost a year later, I have come to a hard-to-admit realization:  I am my mother's daughter, and not just by physical resemblance.
 
It is not my father's sense of humor I inherited, it's hers.  She is still quick with a quip, takes teasing fairly well, and we laugh together about getting older.  My mother can be compassionate and supportive.  I try to mimic her sense of style, but not her sense of entitlement, that's not me.  It's been challenging, but I have found a new respect for my feisty little Mom, and I like and admire the old woman she has become.
 
As she was getting ready for bed the other night she looked up at me and said, "Did you know you are a pretty woman?"  "Not pretty, Mom," I replied, "cute, I've never considered myself pretty."
 
"Well, you should," my mother replied, "and it should give you confidence as you move about in the world.  It's important to recognize who you are.  "OK, Mom," I replied, wondering to myself what messages I had incorporated earlier in my life that made me feel like I didn't measure up to her expectations, not even when I became a mother myself.  "I was hoping for a little girl," my mother replied when I called to announce the birth of my first, and as it turns out, only child, a little boy.
 
Did I imagine those words?  It's been 41 years sinced my son was born -- was there a context surrounding them that I've forgotten?  Why did I grow up thinking I was so much less, when my mother now tells me that I am so much more?
 
Now our roles are somewhat reversed, so I guess I will never know -- but that's okay.  Mom is showing me how to get through old age, and I am doing my best.  And if Mom ever asks for gingerbread cookies, I know where to get the best cookies in town!

4 Comments

July 11, 2011 - 1:23am

Susan Einhorn

Sharon: Thanks so much for your comment. My mother passed away in February, but there are still times that I think, "Oh, I'll have to tell Mom about that," and then catch myself, knowing that she's not here anymore. And like Sandy and her Dad, and you and your sister, I feel that I did all I could for my Mom, including telling her I loved her every single day. I admire her strength and miss her, and I know that she loved me, even on her crabby days.

July 10, 2011 - 1:55pm

Sandy Tankoos

Sharon, I think there are many of us who have been in your position. I was my dad's caretaker for 10 years after my mom died. I sometimes felt like I was moving heaven and earth for him, but it was always taken for granted; and the few things I was unable to do loomed large over my head and he reminded me of them almost daily. I guess, as some people grow older, particularly if they have lost their life partner, daily living becomes all about them and their own needs. However, in my case, since my dad always took care of everyone in his family as I was growing up, I felt the need to do the same for him. At least now that he's goneI I can feel satisfied that I tried my best to give him the best life I could, and I think that's all any of us can do. Sandy Tankoos

July 9, 2011 - 5:56pm

Sharon Deno

If I didn't know better I would think I wrote the above piece. My mom was diagnosed 18 months ago with metastatic breast cancer. the cancer has spread to her bones, spine, brain. She is one feisty old lady and at times is very difficult to the point of being downright mean. She has told everyone how good I am to her, everyone except me. So I completely understand what Susan has written. It's nice to know there are others out there. My sister and I thought we were the only ones with a dying mother who is not making it easy.

May 11, 2011 - 9:53am

Muriel

New on the MedlinePlus Caregivers page: Health Tip: Caregivers, Don't Ignore Your Own Health Mon, 09 May 2011 06:00:00 -0500 Suggestions to help you stay well Source: HealthDay http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/caregivers.html

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