Posted by: chlost | August 21, 2011

What’s left in the wake of a weekend

Just winding down from a busy family weekend. Sunday evening, and things are quiet.

My sister was here from Chicago. Last week was our mom’s 81st birthday, so she came up to celebrate with us. My brother lives a few hours north of our house, so all of us were able to be together to have a little picnic party for mom. My sons, and my daughter-in-law and the three granddaughters met us at a park to have dinner last night. We had a very nice evening.

My mom has really struggled the past couple of years since my sister’s death. Because she lived near my sister on the east coast, she moved halfway across the country to be near husband and I so that we could help her. It’s been a difficult adjustment for her, physically and emotionally. My mom has declined a lot in her functioning over these past couple of years. It is very hard to see, especially for my sister who doesn’t see her regularly.

This type of family time stirs up a lot of difficult feelings for me regarding my mom.  She and my dad divorced when I was in college, but my brother was just a teen. The way my brother was treated during that time makes me very angry. My brother is pretty angry about it, too, but doesn’t acknowledge it. My mom doesn’t see it.

My mom had custody, and my dad pretty much checked out of his life. My mom then moved with my brother to the west coast. He was in junior high at that time-a very difficult age to change schools. She took a job on the 3-11 pm shift, meaning that he was at home alone the majority of the time. My father never came to visit him, as he had remarried and was raising his wife’s young daughter. The new wife didn’t like any of us, so there was no option for my brother to visit my dad. My brother raised himself. My parents don’t know how lucky they are that he did not get into any trouble.

Even though she worked as a psychiatric nurse for a good part of her career, Mom has the least amount of self-awareness or reflection of anyone I know.  If there is a comment about her feelings or how her decisions impacted someone else, her dismissive response is “Oh, please!”, or “Heavens, no!” or-my favorite- “Oh, piffle!”. It never goes beyond that. My mother never acknowledges any responsibility for hurting my brother or anyone else.

My mother was always closer to my two sisters than she was to me. All of them were alike in many ways. As she has been declining over the past several months, I have come to realize that we never will be close. She will depend on me and resent me for it. I become annoyed with her when she makes her snide comments about how I am (or am not) handling something for her. We dance our little mother/daughter jig with each other, with my poor husband and children on the sidelines. She wonders (oftentimes out loud, in a stage whisper) why the kids don’t seem to come around much.

Let me be clear, she was not a bad mother to me. In fact, I had the best of her as a mother because I was the oldest child. But somewhere along the line she lost interest. She distanced herself from us as her children. I have realized that I need to let go of trying to deal with her from my role as a daughter. I need to let go of the role of mother I wanted her to be in my life. I have to accept a relationship with her as though she is a woman whose bills need to be paid, who has to be transported to doctor appointments, and who needs me to keep her company once in a while. I am going to try to let the other stuff go. I am going to try to think of her as though there is no history between us, as though she is just an elderly family member I am helping.

The hardest part of all of this is my dread that I may be like this someday. That my kids or my grandchildren may feel like this about me. One of the good things that has come from this is that I am trying extra hard to be a good mom and grandparent, hopefully someone they will care about and want to have around as I get older. I cannot imagine having great-grandchildren in whom I do not take an interest.

All of these feelings have been stomped down over the past year or so, as we have moved my mom, handled her medical issues and gotten her settled. Now after this weekend together, they have bubbled back up to the top. I have been thinking about this all day, and have been close to tears the whole evening. I feel as though I am on the right track now.

But somehow I find myself grieving for a relationship which was never there.



  1. Oh, my. I know that feeling so well, the wish that the relationship had been such that this hardest, last phase could be made easier by it. It didn’t work that way for me, though; the storybook ending just wasn’t in the stars. In fact, I’ve never known anyone for whom it was, which makes me wonder who writes these storybooks. It seems to me that you’re taking the one and only lesson from this experience that’s worth taking: build those relationships with your kids and grandkids yourself so that you have the sweetness of them both now and later. Good for you.

    • I am not sure if it was from a storybook, or from others I have seen with the relationships that I had assumed I would have as well. Many of my friends and even relatives seem to have a totally different relationship with their moms. Now I know that I may not see the true relationship, and I know that my mom and I are totally different people from these others, but I had hope somewhere in my heart. When my mom lived far away, it was easy to feel that it was the physical distance which was to blame. Now that she lives close by, it is obviously not that, but our own personalities. Thanks for the support!

  2. *hugs* I too know how you feel. It really sucks sometimes. It’s unfortunate for her that your mother is in denial as far as her part in all of it. Good for you for dealing with things in a rational manner. My own mother has chosen to not speak to me in over 10 years and it’s hard to say what will happen when she gets to the point where she needs help. And dear, I can not imagine that your children or grandchildren would ever not want to be around you … I’ll bet you’re one of the coolest grandmas ever. 🙂

    • Thanks! It is amazing to me how the mother/daughter relationship plays out with different families. I’m sorry that your mom has abandoned you that way. It is while we are raising our own children that that relationship could be so helpful. My friends used to think that my mom was one of the coolest moms they knew. Perspective, perspective.

  3. That’s sad – sounds like your brother really got lost in the shuffle.

    An aside – psychiatry (both nurses and physicians) is not necessarily correlated with self-awareness. It’s a largely biologically-based discipline and many have only a token bit of training in psychology.

    • Your point about the biological training is right on the money. My mom is very much into meds……she knows them all and could tell you which should be given to whom for what diagnosis,but never for herself! Thanks for your comment.

  4. ((hugs)) that is a very real and not unexpected grief, given your experience… I’m in total agreement with secret agent woman; re self awareness. Be compassionate to yourself, you deserve it.

    • Thanks so much for your support!

  5. Judging by the previous comments and my own reaction to this, I can safely say, you’re not alone. This reminded of of what my mom and my aunt went through with my grandma. My grandma lived with my mom, but they had always had a tendency to rub each other the wrong way. My mom cried a lot and tried to deal with hurt feelings over my grandma’s treatment of her, which was made worse when she never talked to my aunt in the same manner.

    I hope you are able to come to terms with what is and derive some enjoyment of the caregiver to a person who needs you.

    • It is so wonderful to get such support from all of you who do not even know me. Some days are better than others, so I am trying to keep the better in the forefront as much as possible. I really don’t have much to complain about compared to so many others.

  6. (((hugs))) I hear your sadness. I doubt very much you will be the same way with your children… Old age is not for the faint of heart.

    Although my mother died a long time ago, I have struggled with caring for my father (89) and my aunt (96). My aunt was tragically predeceased by her husband and both of her sons, and has turned into a bitter, demanding, irrational and unappreciative person. I try to respect her because of her age, but it’s very very hard to be around her. Like you, I’m hoping and praying that I won’t be that way if or when I get to be her age and in need of assistance…

    • My sister and I have both agreed that we do not want to outlive our money. That means I may not live to a very ripe old age, I guess-less time to get old and crotchety.

  7. Very touching. I am always amazed by family dynamics. Most of the psych nurses I’ve met do not really have good insight into feelings. Pathology and biology, yes. Hugs to you.

  8. It is sad that you did not have a great relationship with your mom. I had a great one with my mother and I miss her a lot since she passed away. I still feel bad though to have been in another country and could not see her as often as I would have – but I tried to fly to France at least twice a year or more and that was not easy. People train to get jobs, or get the education. I wish there was more education for learning how to be a parent – that would be a great help in making kids happy.

  9. You are definitely not alone with these issues and feelings. And I agree with Nance above who said you are taking the lesson that matters from this, to be a person who your children and grandchildren want to be with.

    I am in much the same situation. The only way I can peacefully accept it at all is to remember that all of us are doing about the best that we can, given our nature, our upbringing, and our life experience, and my mother is too.

    All the best to you as you navigate this challenge.

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