Reckoning with my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease led me to seek counsel from a helping professional to work through feelings of resentment. I truly believe my mother did the best she could with the tools she had. And I’ve forgiven her for the ways she controlled and manipulated my life, for the words she said in anger, and for her inability to validate and accept me for the person I am. I know that hurting people hurt others, and I am sure that she gave me all that she had. In families, we love each other and we hurt each other.
I felt as though talking about my own pain was in some way a betrayal of my mother. But, remaining in that state made me a victim and kept me locked in a cycle of codependency. I have forgiven her, and now I am making the choice to forgive myself and let go of baseless guilt. To do this requires that I face the pain and feel the hurt. And I have had to accept that I may not be able to do what’s in my heart and still keep everyone happy.
Visiting Mom in Memory Lane always stirs up emotions. I am relieved that she is safe and well cared for. But today, she was in the odd place where in some ways she seems so healthy and whole and then the next minute totally confused, back and forth. It feels as though we are trying to learn a new dance, and we are out-of-step, mashing each other’s toes.
After the visit, I sought solace by shopping in a local thrift shop. Trailing my fingers along racks of clothes neatly arranged on hangers, I stop to stare at the pretty pink gown, considering it for Mom. And then I see the distinctive little name tag, neatly pressed into the neckline. And I know. This gown belonged to another woman, someone’s mother who, like mine, lost her way, and ended up living in a nursing facility. And clothes are donated when someone passes away. Sadness and grief threaten to overtake me, but instead, I promise myself I will take back and heal my life so that I can truly live.