I started this blog a few years ago as a way to deal with my mother's recent Alzheimer's diagnosis, but like every other attempt I've made to keep a diary or journal, I've failed to update it... I hope my four followers haven't been holding their breath since my last post. :) Sorry loyal friends and followers! How ironic that today I have decided to post about loyalty; something with which I continue to struggle even though I grew up with the president and poster-child of The Loyalty Club, my mother. (Full disclosure: The Loyalty Club doesn't exist... I made it up.)
Today I visited my mom. She's been living in a memory care unit for 19 months, and we recently moved her to a new facility that can better meet her needs. It's been weeks since my last visit (loyalty fail); I've struggled to cope with the move even though it was my idea. I don't visit on a regular schedule the way my aunts do (loyalty fail), or the way my mom and I visited Grandma when she was sick (loyalty fail). But today something hit me; today I realized that even though my mom doesn't have the slightest idea who I am anymore, she still FEELS comfort in my presence. She sat through her very first meal, at the table, with another resident and myself! This is highly unusual! And the staff was amazed! And believe me, I was amazed too because I wanted to turn and run (loyalty fail)! It's hard to watch your one beautiful and confident mother look so confused at the sight of a plate of food sitting in front of her. It's awful watching all of these residents stare at their plates with an inquisitive look on their faces like, "damn that looks good, but what the hell am I supposed to do with that!?!?" But I sat there and helped my mom pick up diced, cooked carrots with her spoon. She would get frustrated attempting to pick up her food, so I would scoop up a small spoonful and then hand her the spoon. She would take the bite but then immediately fail to pick up a spoonful of chicken sandwich, so she would set her spoon back down, and we would start the process all over again. We did this for a half hour, and it was gut wrenching. I wanted to scream at her that it was me, Lara, her daughter, and that she knew how to use a spoon, that she was the one who taught ME how to use a spoon... but I just sat there in silence trying to smile while the other resident having lunch at our table attempted to make cheerful, yet nonsensical, conversation.
I realized today that I've been selfish; I've put my needs before my mom's (loyalty fail), and she ALWAYS put everyone's needs before her own (sometimes to a fault). I can't do that anymore. I can't abandon her just because she can't give anything back to me. That's what love and loyalty are all about right? Selfless acts? Unconditional love and commitment? Right?!?!? I'm glad I married a loyal guy. He's taught me a lot about loyalty. He doesn't give up on me when I behave like an ungrateful jerk; he fights hard to bring me back from the deep, dark depths of my own idiocy or depression. He's a Marine, and he fights like it. He fights for me when I can't; he fights for our marriage and family when I feel like I have nothing left to give. And today I thought of him, and his strength, to get me through this day with my mom...
I am almost looking forward to my next lunchtime visit... with Big Mama screaming, "I'M HUNGRY! HELP ME! FEED ME! HELP ME! FEED ME!"... and another resident dropping spoonfuls of food onto the floor, bending over in her chair, and scraping her fork across it like it's a Zen Garden... and the "other" Diane scooping spoonfuls of chocolate milk over her entire plate, like it's gravy, and then offering her cup to me... and the confused looks from the other residents with eyes that are pleading for help and understanding... I'VE GOT THIS! I CAN DO THIS! I'm not a Marine, but I'm going to try to fight like one... Semper Fi, Mom. Semper Fidelis!