One of the greatest lessons I learned from my mother was acceptance. She and my father never pushed my sister and me to fit into some kind of preconceived mold that would fulfill their dreams. All they ever wanted was for us to be happy. They allowed us to express ourselves as individuals and to spread our wings, while still falling in line with some common sense rules.
I got myself into trouble a lot as a kid. I didn't do anything so horrendously naughty that I would be embarrassed to talk about it. But it was still naughty. Was my mother disappointed in me? Absolutely. Did I know she was disappointed? You betcha. But I still knew that she loved me for who I was, no matter what I did. If I got into trouble, she would find a way to help me out of it. She wouldn't necessarily fix my problems for me, but she would guide me into fixing them for myself and made sure I had learned a lesson.
I was such a pain in the ass during my preteen and early teen years. I remember her often saying, "If I ever would have spoken to my parents like that...!" But she muddled through those awful years and we ended up closer than ever when I was an adult.
Accepting a diagnosis of Alzheimer's was not easy to do. My father, my sister and I knew it well before she did. Actually, I think she was fully aware that it was coming. She had been dreading it for quite some time. But she didn't want to admit it. We had a hard time convincing the powers-that-be that it was happening to her. She could manipulate conversations and cover for herself enough that she could squeak by. When she was finally put into a home, she often tried to run away. She just couldn't accept the fate that she had forseen coming ever since her mother had succumbed to the illness.
The last time that Mom tried to run away was back in mid-September. I still think that part of it was some kind of subconscious awareness that it was her family's reunion weekend. Over the past few months, though, she has calmed down considerably. She no longer tries to run away. She is less likely to try to leave with visitors. I usually had to sneak out the back door while nurses distracted her, because she was always convinced that she was supposed to come with me. Now, she tries to go on outings or to participate in the main activities at the nursing home. She has lost the ability to play music or to understand Bingo. But she has accepted this place as her home.
The hardest part for me is to accept her for who she is now. This woman that I see in front of me is no longer my mother. She looks just like her, though, and that can infuriate me when she is having one of her moments. I think I am the one who is having a hard time accepting. And maybe things will change if and when I can ever get home again. I haven't been able to visit her in person since June, though I have spoken to her on the phone a couple of times. I know that those conversations are now going to be short and one-sided. She no longer knows who I am. I am just some young girl who is talking to her on the phone. And I am working on accepting that.