Oh Shoot

Today I took my momma to one of her doctor’s appointments. It was downtown.

I knew I would need to pick her up an hour before her check in time, just because it was so far and she doesn’t move all that fast.

I try to ignore the condescending remarks, like “You’ve got this all figured out now, don’t you?” Like I’m twelve and that don’t normally driver to this very same hospital about three times a week to interpret.

During the long drive, she brought up all the regular people from her past, just as she always does, and asks why she can’t talk to them anymore, again.

There’s my brother, and her ex-husband, and occasionally my dad. She asks if I’ve talked to any of them.

Then she goes on to tell me how badly she wants to get out of her assisted living facility. It doesn’t matter how many times, or how many examples I give to show how nice her place is, she always tells me, “I know. I know.” And the next time I see her, she’ll tell me again.

Today, I ask her what she would do if she didn’t live there. What would she like to do?

“I have no idea.” Something else she also, always tells me. “I just feel lost.”

We talk about her brain, and how it’s not her fault. We talk about how this appointment is not going to fix her; we’re just hoping for her to stay the same.

Not mentioning that today she is better than what she’ll be tomorrow, and yesterday, she was better than what she is today.

For someone who struggles with talking, she always has something to say. After unsuccessfully searching for the right words, she ends up settling for, “… Oh shoot.” I keep listening and help out when I can.

After agreeing with her new specialist throughout the thirty minute appointment and reassuring the young doctor she didn’t have any questions, we walk down the hall and she asks me, “Did we find out anything?”

“Not really.”

“Oh, shoot.”

“It’s ok. You’re ok.”

We get back in the car and start the long trip home in rush hour traffic, this time.

Trying to console her, I reach over to hold her hand. She grabs it with both hands and as if by instinct, or possibly habit, she reassures me, “I know, Kim. It will be ok.” She pats my hand.

Concealed behind the tint of my sunglasses I start to cry.

I imagine, one day, when we’re in heaven, she will hold me close after being healed from all this life has thrown at her. And she will tell me, “You did good, Kim. I didn’t make it easy for you, but you did really good.”

I drop her off, text my brother to call his mom, then drive home to make dinner for my family.

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Being Released

I’ve been wrestling with God since my last blog. I also have been trying to take care of myself because the days to come could be brutal if what he has planned isn’t what I’m mentally prepared to handle.

I’ve started Holy Yoga, which I have to be honest, is nothing like I expected. I’m signed up to retake a 12 week Codependency class. I’m meeting with a counselor throughout the month. I’m praying and have been asking for prayers. And lastly reading; scripture, yes, but also books and articles related to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

This is what I have learned.

  • We live our lives looking to men to be our God. Doctors make us feel good or feel better. They give us answers. They prolong our lives. But when the time comes, there will truly be only one God who can make us feel good or better. Only God can offer us any hope or purpose to why life is how it is. In the end it will only be me and Jesus.
  • God doesn’t like Alzheimer’s, but he will use it to show himself.
  • Those inflicted see Jesus in their caregivers. And if opened to it, caregivers draw on God’s strength, peace, and wisdom. He transforms them to look like Jesus.
  • Jesus served. And so shall I.

The change happened when I felt in my heart, my past relationship with my mom was done.

There is nothing to add or take from it.

You could say, I released her. That’s what it feels like.

Today, is a new day, a new start, and I have been called to continue refining my character by moving on with my Christ-centered life.

My identity, my worth, comes from serving my Lord, not replaying unforgiveness of the past.

I still have a lot of work to do. I have a lot of growing, while I’m here. I have been called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I have been called to let people see Jesus through me, not for my glory, but his.

I have sinned against my mom. I have not brought her comfort when I could have. I have chosen to pull away, instead of moving closer. I have made things harder on her by not helping her carry her load. I know what a touch does to her soul, but have not been around. I know how affirming words lift her spirit, but I have kept them to myself. I’ve known what she’s struggled to say, but I’ve made her continue searching for the right words. I know how much her family means to her, and I’ve kept them away.

To continue to ignore how God would want to use me, would be deplorably wrong. It would not only be a sin against her, but him.

However, I appreciate how Christ gave me time to heal. I appreciate that he didn’t condemn me for taking so much time in my pain. I appreciate how he didn’t let me sit in my sorrow, nor run from it, but nudged me to keep searching for something I didn’t know what I was searching for.

I have made up my mind to follow Christ. I will pick up my towel and serve him, by serving my her.

Day one, he has erased my hard feelings. That doesn’t mean they won’t come back, but for today they are gone.

I have had a meeting with my family and have asked for their support and understanding and what’s even cooler, is they have decided to come alongside and do it with me.

We will learn together how to have someone who can quite possibly, although not purposely, hurt our feelings but still have a place in our life. We will learn what Alzheimer’s looks like and adapt to its changes. We will choose to love even if we don’t feel loved.

We will learn grace, together.

It is an honor to be given the opportunity to act out my faith in obedience.

However…

I’M SCARED! I’ve already lost my mom. She died 16 years ago when she had her last stroke. I’ve already grieved that part, and if I let her back in, and I love her, I’m going to have to eventually grieve her again.

But I will, because as awful as that day will be, more tragic would be walking away from the gift she could be giving me.

Maybe things happen in my childhood that shouldn’t have, maybe she could have been better, but maybe she’s been given a second chance. I can still learn and grow from her.

I have always searched to become the woman I was supposed to be.

And to not take advantage of this opportunity could mean walking away from my destiny.

Settling for something less.

Allowing unforgiveness to steal my birthright.

Maybe we both have been given a second chance. Maybe she can finally see Jesus. And I can finally become the woman God designed me to be.

Unmerciful Daughter

“But remember you are kind and caring, don’t forget that.”

This is what I hear over and over again in some shape or form. But am I? I don’t think I am.

I went to go research the time of the flood, but really the year doesn’t matter.

We only make it to Genesis 6:6, before God regrets making us because of our wickedness and starts plans for starting the human race over.

Deuteronomy 9:14, post flood, he’s ready to annihilate his chosen people, again.

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. – Isaiah 64:6

Paul tells us no one is righteous in Romans 3:10-12.

Jesus, Christ himself, even declares, no one is good, except God, in Mark 10:18

So over 2000 years later why would I think being kind and caring forgives me from anything?

It justifies nothing. I am a sinner. Nothing good lives in me (Romans 7:18).

And yet, I have been forgiven! But it’s not because I am good, because I am wretched. But it is because, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

So if He still loves me for being as vile as I am and I am saved because he forgives me, doesn’t He love and forgive my mom too?

Immediately, I am reminded of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35.

My mom has sinned so much more against God, than she has against me, and if He can forgive her, why can’t I?

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” – Matthew 18:32-35

Dear Heavenly Father,

Help me to love like you do. Help me to forgive, how you forgave me.

I Just Don’t Know.

Recently, I took my mom to get the results of her MRI and memory test, as well as recommendations from her doctor.

My whole goal of taking her was selfish. I have become so bitter towards her over the past 12 years. I don’t want to be bitter anymore. I don’t want my mom hating me when she dies. I don’t want me hating her when she dies, either.

Everyone keeps telling me I need to get over it. I need to ignore what she says. But inside of me I’m fighting so hard for her to hear me. She makes me feel unloved, unvalued, not important, not special. I wanted her to cherish me and to put me first or at least consider me, but she never has. And now that I’m an adult and I finally realize what I’m looking for in our relationship, it’s too late. She’s not the woman who raised me.

My mom died over 16 years ago. And oh how I loved her so much then. She was my best friend. I wish I could love her like that again. I forgave my mom for things she did, even if I didn’t understand what she had done.

I look at her now and I’m afraid if I continue to forgive; if I don’t call her out on how she makes me feel, if I don’t tell her she’s wrong every. single. time, that she’s going to take my self-worth away, again. I’m afraid I’m going to turn into the person I used to be. The one who let people walk all over me, who people took advantage of. But that won’t really happen. If she says she doesn’t like my hair, it doesn’t mean I’m not pretty. If she criticizes my clothes, it doesn’t mean I don’t look nice. If she complains I don’t help her, it doesn’t mean its true. If she doesn’t like my driving, it doesn’t mean I’m a bad driver. I can hear and identify the guilt she’s trying to make me feel, but I don’t have to feel it.

The first thing the doctor says, as he walks into the room was, “I’m impressed…but not in a good way.” He then proceeds to explain that my mom’s brain is riddled with extensive damage. I tell him we figured she has had about five strokes. By looking at the results of the MRI, he says he believes me. He shows me pictures of a skull that has more holes than anything else.

He then looks at her memory test. He explains that 80% of her deficiencies come from her strokes. It is that bad, but the other 20% is coming from signs of Alzheimer’s and depression.

It’s why she’s getting worse.

He recommends referring her to a stroke clinic as well as adding another antidepressant, considering the one she is on does nothing to treat the depression she has.

I am numb. I feel nothing but continue to ask questions as he is quite literally, walking backwards out the door. His answers all become, “The Stroke Clinic will help you.”

She gets to start the new antidepressant, but we wait for a referral to the clinic.

I’ve been struggling to come to peace with mine and my mom’s relationship for a long time. It was important for me to understand the messages I was internalizing as a child, to be able to break free from codependent relationships I was drawn to, felt comfortable having, so that I can become healthy and break the dysfunction I was used to. I blamed my mom for everything.

I blamed her for my abusive relationships. I blamed her for feeling bad about myself. I blamed her for being treated as a doormat. I blamed her for every single bad thing that has happened in my life. And I still blame her.

But I am an adult now. I’m not a child. I have found my voice. I know my worth. Yet, I’m still here hating her. Hating someone who isn’t even here anymore. And when she passed, she meant everything to me. There was no hate, only compassion. I knew she wasn’t perfect. I knew she did her best.

But as this new person started to walk around in her old body that looked just like the mom, I knew I was becoming angry because she’s not my mom. She couldn’t make me feel loved like she used to, even as dysfunctional as it was. And then I started looking within me, trying to figure out why I was the person I was. And I grew angrier realizing the consequences of an unhealthy, and equally broken person who raised me, had on me.

And I was robbed again, because I couldn’t yell at her, at the mom who raised me, because she wasn’t her anymore.

Dammit Kim, why can’t you let this go? I look at a picture of her when I was young, and remember feeling love, but I look at a picture of her today and even though she’s not capable of trying to hurt me, I feel anger. This isn’t even the woman who had screwed me up! But I’m making her pay for it.

Within the last year, I have started praying that God would show me my mom through his eyes. The first time I realized how much he loved her was when I was explaining my mom’s unsafe relationships, to a friend, and she tells me, “Wow, Kim. I really thought you were going to tell me how someone was taking advantage of her, but honestly, it sounds like the other way around.” She’s not lying. You hear stories all the time of people luring vulnerable people into unsafe settings to either rape, beat or rob. But not my mom. She has found another male, not to rape, beat or rob, but definitely to manipulate and take advantage of. Shows how lonely he is too. But I saw for the first time how much God is protecting her. In fact, he always has.

And not only always has, but if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear she was His favorite instead of me!

She lost both her parents when she was young. She and her sister bounced around family until they were of age. My aunt explained to me they should have been in foster care.

Then she gets pregnant with me when she’s 17. She marries my dad right out of high school and six months before I am born.

Her aunt shames her by not letting her wear white.

She makes a ton of bad decisions with my dad, while raising two kids. She leaves us, divorces my dad. Makes a ton more bad decisions. Meets, falls in love with, and marries someone who’s seven years older than me! Oh, she continues to make different but still bad decisions, but this man loves my mom like no other.

And then she has her stroke, the last one. She’s 49. Within a blink of an eye, my mom is gone, but she’s not. Her shell survived. But her brain, her brain has more holes than not. And it takes a while, but she starts walking again, and talking again.

But still, he dotes on her like a queen for the next ten years or so. But now things start to change again. She’s not the same woman who was my mom, nor the woman who was his wife and now more things are changing in her, things she can’t control, and Alzheimer’s has begun and she’s making more bad decisions, but like I said, it’s not even her anymore. She tries to kill herself on her 60th birthday.

But she’s His favorite and her shell still survives. Oh my God, why? I know it’s not because she’s a fighter, but it’s because she’s His favorite too.

She’s moved into an assisted living facility. She’s bitter, angry, resentful, lonely and eventually divorced; again.

Is she His favorite, or is she cursed? She has pushed every single person who has ever loved her, or she has loved away. And aside from her two sisters who live very far away, she has one daughter who still has anything to do with her, and this daughter is angry and bitter but trying desperately to forgive her mom who has left long ago, so she can honor the shell she was left with. The shell that once, before 46 years of bad decisions, gave life to. And even that bad decision produced four amazing people who call her grandma.

One last thing, before the doctor leaves us sitting stunned in his exam room, “If she was right handed, she wouldn’t be able to talk.”

Immediately a different reality overwhelms me. Yes, I lost my mom over 16 years ago, but by the grace of God she can still speak simply because she is left handed.

Maybe, just maybe God loves her so much that after all the tragedy she has lived, she still has something to say. Maybe something I need to hear.

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

God, I need you. I am here, once again on my knees, my face to the ground. Help me. Help me to love my mom. Soften my heart. Make this feel right. How can I possibly be there for her, and for what is to come, when I feel as crummy as I do?

I Got It!

I’ve been thinking a lot, as you know, about the relationship I have with my mom, and recently I had a new revelation.

The revelation came after a recent interaction with her.

I’m not going to get into all the details of what was said, or what happened.  I’d rather not bring it up if I don’t have to.

But I would like to fill you in on what I came up with after trying to understand what had happened.

I’ve always said, ever since the the birth of my first son, that I just didn’t feel like I had that “Mom” gene all my friends seemed to have.

My friends all seemed to have had a desire to be a mom. They loved babies even when they were stinky and messy. They enjoyed playing with their kids and didn’t seem to care if their house was in shambles. They were creative with meal time, cutting sandwiches into hearts and pancakes had smiley faces.

Okay, I know not all of my friends did this or at least not all the time but I’ve always felt I was different. I always felt like something was wrong with me. 

That something was just missing. I didn’t know what I was doing and my kids were going to suffer because of it. They were going to have a disadvantage because of it, and I felt remorse for it, even before any evidence was collected to show it.

But the revelation that recently came to me and I feel is SO important that I need to share it with everyone, is…

MAYBE THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME!

Maybe, just maybe, it was my mom who was born without the “Mom” gene I felt I’ve been missing.

In fact not only does my mom not have the “Mom”gene but that I REALLY DO HAVE IT! I just didn’t know what it looked like or how it worked.

But that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with me. I was born with that instinct moms have for their kids. I just didn’t know how to express it.

I love my kids. There’s nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for them. I would never intentionally hurt them. I would never take from them. My life’s desire is to push them into being the best people they can be.

THAT’S THE “MOM” GENE!

It’s true, some moms don’t have it. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not me. And my kids are not at a disadvantage because of it.

So now when I have to interact with her I don’t need to go into the relationship wondering, “What’s wrong with me, that she treat me like this?” But instead, “It’s not that there is something wrong with me, but that there’s something missing in her.”

Oh my gosh, all these years of feeling like a bad daughter. Feeling like I deserve to be treated badly, because why else would she treat me so badly. Of feeling insignificant. Always trying to impress her. Always looking to be her beloved. Wanting to be worthy, worthy of a mother’s love.

I get it now!

Actually, I’ve always had it!

A Lesson From Mom

There are just some things in life you have to do that you don’t want to.

My mom taught me that. There were several things as a child I was forced to do. I didn’t want to expose my breasts to the neighbors. I didn’t want to lift my nightgown, to show everyone who entered our house, that I ONLY had two chicken poxes on my back.

But I had to.

That and more pretty much messed me up. What I learned is I didn’t have a say. Often as children, we don’t.

Or do we?

I really don’t know. For me, I didn’t. My mom was the puppet master. I was the puppet. I didn’t like upsetting my mom. She was often upset as it was. I didn’t want to be the cause of anything more.

So, I was stuck between wanting to make my mom happy, and not doing what I didn’t want to.

Now I can’t say my kids get away with EVERYTHING, but they do get away with a lot. It’s hard for me not to make them do things they don’t want. I understand the importance of it, but it’s still hard.

Sometimes, it’s just not a battle I want to fight. Like whether they want to keep their shoes on at 15 months. I really don’t care. They’re not walking around outside, unless they are and then they do. But if I’m carrying them from their car seat to the doctor’s office, I’m not going to fuss over it, when I’m just happy we got there on time.

I don’t care if their clothes match. They are old enough to dress themselves. If they don’t want to search for a shirt that matches their shorts. That’s on them. I don’t care.

I will make sure they brush their teeth, but I don’t care if they don’t brush their hair. I just don’t. Once they hit a certain age, their appearance is not a reflection of who I am.

But I truly do understand the importance of learning and teaching there are somethings you just have to do, whether you want to or not.

Like doing chores. Taking baths. Doing homework.

Growing up, myself, I learned a couple of coping skills my kids are probably not learning. Well, not very well.

  1. Don’t think so much.

As a child, I really had no idea when I was going to go do something I didn’t want to do. So, I really COULDN’T think too much about it anyway. At any time, my mom could, and would tell me to do something…and I would. Of course, then I would have to convince myself everything was ok. That’s not weird. It’s not wrong, my mom told me to do it. I don’t want to upset my mom.

So, this brings me to my second coping skill.

  1. Instead, think tomorrow, at this time, it will be better.

That’s what you think about when you’re doing something you’re not thinking so much about.

  • This is temporary. It will end. Tomorrow, at this time, you won’t be doing this. It will pass.

Not to be confused with, I won’t be doing this again; because that’s not true.

I just don’t think too much about that, well not right now, anyway.

As soon as this is over, my days and nights will be consumed with those thoughts, but not right now. Not in the middle of the act.

Right now, I’m just going to shut down mentally, do what I’m told to do, and think tomorrow will be better.

So yeah, what a mess I became. I’m still trying to understand how all that impacted who I have become and how not to pass that on to my kids.

But I’ve been challenged to think about the good that my mom as done for me. So today, as I sit at my bathroom vanity, starting my morning rituals, and contemplating all the things that I don’t necessarily want to do, but need to do so I can do what I want to do, I think about what my mom has taught me.

Don’t think so hard. Just do what you have to do. Shower, hair, makeup, pack a lunch, go to the gym.

And… (with a slight modification) so then after, things will be better because then I can do what I want.

I mean really, these are great coping skills. Life skills really.

First, don’t think so much about what needs to get done. Just do it. Secondly, remember its only temporary. The faster you get it done, the sooner you can have fun.

And these don’t have to only pertain to everyday mundane stuff, either.

Its helped me step outside my comfort zone too. I really wanted to meet my neighbors because relationships are godly, but I really didn’t want to go knocking on every neighbor’s door to invite them to a block party.

But I didn’t think so hard about it.

I made the invitations. (This step was easy to get stuck in since the longer it took to do this, the more time I had before I had to do something I didn’t want which was…) then start at the end house and knock on each door, up and down the street.

At each door I had a goal. Get their name. So, it sucked. I hate small talk, but I did it and if I got their name, it was a bonus! I can tell you it takes roughly an hour to knock, talk and deliver an invitation to everyone on my block. Oh my gosh, it’s still hard for me. It is one of my least favorite things to do. But I do it because why?

Well, sometimes they come to our parties. Sometimes they don’t, but like my second skill states, something better is coming! They still wave at me as I drive down the street. Or they will say, good morning Kim, as I walk. I still get relationships from it.

So, its God who motivates me to want to step outside my comfort zone, but it’s my mom who has taught me how to do it.

Could she have taught me a different way? Well hopefully because I would like my kids to learn the same lesson, but I don’t want to teach them the same way.

But I have to make peace within myself that she still taught me. She did good. We all have our experiences to overcome. Some experiences are harder to survive.

Growing up, I truly believed childhood was not something you lived. It’s something you survived.

My mom didn’t survive her childhood. Physically, yes, but mentally she didn’t. She wasn’t trying to teach me to survive because she didn’t know how. I learned it from her anyway. I’m grateful for that, because even though she’s mentally still stuck back there in her childhood, abandoned and alone, I was able to pull through so that I can hopefully teach my kids the same lesson, but in a different way.

I’m not teaching them how to survive. I’m teaching them how to live.

So, I’m going to go cry now.

Thank you listening.

Birthday Revelation

It seems completely fitting to be starting this journal about my mother today of all days. Today is her birthday.

Earlier today I was standing in the middle of the aisle at the grocery store, trying to buy her a birthday card, and trying not to fall apart. It wasn’t until I picked up the first card, and started to read it that I remembered how much I hated to do this.

My mom had asked earlier, if on her birthday, my brother and I could take her out for dinner. My brother hasn’t answered her phone calls in years, so it was up to me to organize it. There wasn’t a whole lot to organize but to make sure I picked her up and brought my kids.

The kids were waiting for me in the car, as I told them I was just going to run in to grab a card and some flowers. So here I was, picking up card after card, expressing such love and admiration for a woman who daily rose above all expectations, to be the world’s best mom.

What was supposed to take me a minute to grab a card took several, as I tried to hold back the tears.  That’s not true. That’s not true. Each card I picked up I put back down. Each being a reminder of what I didn’t have in a mom.

After finally finding one that wasn’t all touchy-feelily, I decided to grab one for the kids to give to her too.  Again, I was reminded, she’s not the typical grandma either. A feeling was stirring deeply inside. But what is this feeling? And why?

I grab a vase of flowers, and headed for the checkout line.

In the car, I try to wipe the tears behind my sunglasses before my kids notice. I don’t want my feelings to put a damper on their time with their grandma. But the more I try to understand why I’m upset, the more the tears fall.

It’s obvious to me my mom’s love language is Quality Time. Every time I talk to her she reminds me how lonely she is. It doesn’t matter that there are probably over 400 people who live in the same assisted living facility as her.

I think back to my childhood. The one where my brother and I were frequently left alone. But because I was so young I question if I’m remembering it right. Sure, she left us alone but maybe I’m just forgetting about the quality time we did have.

But then I think of when I was a teenager. I was pretty self-sufficient. I didn’t need her to baby me anymore, but I still needed my mother. She worked as a waitress and spent a lot of time after hours with her co-workers. Some who were the same age as me. I remember very clearly being jealous of those other girls who got to spend time with my mom. They were always going out together, while I was left at home.

Then in college, my mom had since left my dad and remarried. I was invited to come over, and I did often. Every day in fact, but I also remember every time the phone rang, she was done with me. She would spend hours on the phone as I sat patiently waiting for her to get off. I remember joking I was going to have to leave and call her, if I wanted her attention.

But the funny thing was, whenever she was sad, not just sad, but whenever she was depressed, her husband would tell her, “Call Kim. She’ll make you feel better.” And I always did. I loved making my mom feel better. It made me feel special. It made me feel loved.

But today as I drove my family over to pick her up for her birthday dinner, I remembered how Quality Time is her love language and all those times she didn’t want to spend any of it on me. That is, until she had no one else to spend her time with. Then she did. Then she needed me to make her feel loved.

So here I am years later, with a family of my own, bitter because I feel when I should have been getting the firsts of her love, I was always given what was left.

And that’s exactly how I feel right now. I’m getting her leftovers. She has pushed everyone she has loved away. No one else is left. Not even my brother. And the hour she had with him during her birthday dinner, meant the world to her, and I got what was left.

But I guess that’s my own fault. See, I’m not the prodigal son. I’m not the one who left. I’m the one who’s always been there, resenting the fatten calf she always pulls out when he’s around.

Always feeling second best. Not worthy of anything else.

I try to convince myself she loves me, she just can’t show me. When she speaks love to me with Quality Time, it just feels fake. I just feel used.