My mother was a fiercely independent woman. Sure, she lived at home until she was in her early 30s, but she was saving up to buy her own house. She also was taking care of her widowed mother, as she was the single one of the kids.
She had her bowling league, which played every summer. She was so upset when her back finally got to the point where she could no longer throw the ball.
She had her own veggie garden, as a tribute to her farming background, and as an excuse to dig in the dirt. Dad had his way of gardening and she had hers.
Mom often did what she wanted and when she wanted to do it. Some perceived this as being stubborn. Yes, it is stubbornness. But isn't determination also a good thing? It was that independent nature and determination that had her holding down three jobs so that her children could attend the Montessori school all the way through the 6th grade. When she started to have difficulty in her bookkeeping and accounting jobs as the Alzheimer's began to creep into her world, she had the idea of starting up her own business for money. Of course, that wasn't possible because she could no longer mentally handle the pressure. But how many women do you know who are willing to go to such lengths?
When Mom finally started to lose her independence, of course it was extremely hard on her. She had her first car accident ever at the age of about 65. She was rattled from getting her first speeding ticket ever, as she cruised the country roads to get to the church service on time. And she just didn't stop fast enough to avoid the car stopped in front of her at the light in town. Thank God no one was physically injured. It was just her pride.
The most heartwrenching display of her new lack of independence came that last Christmas we all had together in 2010. I had bought Mom a new nightgown. She kept insisting on either wearing a thin pink button-down housedress that was much too cold for that time of year. Or, she would simply sleep in her clothes. I found her a great flannel one that had snowmen on it. I almost wanted to keep it for myself. She pretended to be excited about wearing it, but then was resistant to putting it on. She smelled so bad from having slept in her clothes for about a week. I admit that my father and I both lost our tempers with her. See, she was in that awful stage of sometimes being aware of what was going on and being argumentative, and sometimes really unable to help it. It was frustrating on all of us.
Anyway, I felt bad about snapping at her in my exhaustion. I went back to see if I could talk some sense into her. She was halfway in the nightgown, with her clothes still on, and was stuck in it. She turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, "I just don't know how to put this on."
Both of us started crying as I held my mother in my arms. It was total role reversal. She was the little kid seeking out comfort from her mommy.
When she was done, I helped her get changed into her new nightgown. She admitted that it was definitely much warmer than her other one and that she liked it a lot. She thanked me profusely and kissed me on my forehead. And then we went back into the living room.
I inherited my independent spirit from my mother. I can't imagine what it would be like to see that slowly slipping away from me. I hope I never have to experience that.