My mom wasn’t my best friend. We had a really difficult relationship through my childhood up until I got out from under her roof in my mid-twenties. When I returned to my childhood home to care for her and my father four and a half years ago, I was resistant and terrified. Would our old patterns of animosity show up? What resentment was still buried in my heart? How would I work through my pain in order to serve as the most tender and responsive caregiver possible? It was never my dad. He was the soft parent, the nurturer, the one who’d cry along with us if one of his children came to him with heartache. But mom was cold and hard and aloof (though Dad never saw her this way). I understand it all so much better now. She wasn’t cruel or unfeeling. She was feeling too much! And it overwhelmed her and made her anxious. And she was constantly defending against this fear, though she never knew how to tell us so. She was like a rose or a thistle or a fragrant cactus – you had to be willing to brave the prickle to experience the rare beauty she kept protected. My dad only ever saw the beauty and felt the generosity of her blooming heart. I only ever felt the prickle. But I’ve changed. Distance and soul searching had helped me begin the process of opening my own heart to her and relating to her not just as my mother, but as a woman who had lived through a despairing amount of trauma in her days. I had to see far beyond who I thought she should be as a mother in order to learn her and love her for who she is. Over the last years caring for her day in and day out I have had uncountable opportunities to practice this acceptance. And whether it’s the progression of her Alzheimer’s that has softened her or something else, I am able to be with her now whole heart in feeling constantly that warm pull that draws you close to another. And now all I ever want is to be close to her. All I ever see is her beauty. All I ever know is her love.
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Crossposted from Instagram