Yesterday I treated myself to a long overdue visit to the spa, mask and all. It had been nearly a year since I’d had an hour massage. I thought it wise to use my gift certificate before it expired.
For some strange reason, I wondered if the house cell phone would ring before I left for my appointment. It did, twice. The first was an unknown number, so I didn’t pick it up. It rang a second time as I headed out the door. My personal cell phone wasn’t showing any calls, so whatever it was didn’t appear to be urgent.
When I arrived at the spa, I was greeted by a young friend. (Okay, we were neighborhood girls who rode the school bus together
days, years, decades ago!) Looking forward to a massage, I told her I was pretty good, but I’d be a lot better in a few minutes. Then we laughed. She exclaimed, “Oh, you make me think so much of your mother!”
Later, this caused me to do some soul searching. In my entire life, I don’t know if anyone has ever told me I resembled Mom. I frequently have heard people say, they saw Dad in me. Of course, as a little girl, this was concerning to me because I wasn’t a boy! However, I did have his facial structure, eyes and hair color. Recently in pondering over some old photographs, I noticed something. In photos from my wedding day, I did see my mother’s smile and expression which is echoed within my own.
While Mom and I have been enticed to occasional spurts of giggles in recent times, I’ve not seen Mom in a carefree, laughing state for fifteen and a half years. Due to her having had a series of strokes and Dad not being here to help her, she’s in assisted living, wheelchair bound with right side paralysis.
A while back, a relative told me of a friend whose mother had also had a number of strokes. It was very challenging for this friend because her mother was constantly wanting things. The difficulty was not in the wanting, but in the inevitability that her mother would never like those things once she possessed them. Apparently some stroke patients suffer with the inability to be satisfied. It was news to me that this could actually be a side effect of my mom’s condition as well. While this information didn’t make it easier for any of us, it put a whole new light on my situation with Mom. Maybe it helped me to delve a little deeper into my pool of patience.
It is uncomfortable to be on either side of this discontent. For the person who’s had this type of stroke, it must feel like being locked in a cage of much dissatisfaction. Being locked from the outside as a helper is frustrating as well. There can be a wide range of emotions from sorrow and anger to elation and pleasure from both the person locked in as well as out depending upon the occasional breakthroughs of satisfaction. It is tough to observe the role reversal of a parent who once nurtured my siblings and me. She has become the one who needs nurturing now, but is not always able to accept it.
To be fair, yes, there have been things with which Mom was satisfied. She does wear her new glasses. There have been various clothing items which she has been pleased to wear. My sister devised a brilliant way to placate Mom into accepting the socks we would buy her, but that is our little secret!
However, there are times we deal with her frustration of non-acceptance. She wanted new shoes. I cannot tell you how many pairs of shoes I’ve ordered for her. Plus, we went to shoe stores and even orthopedic medical professionals to have her fitted. Inevitably, she always goes back to her old. stretched out, worn down leather shoes.
Then there were the lift chairs. She had her mind set on a certain kind of chair, different from the one she already had. We had a number of chairs brought in to her from a store. The sales lady went above and beyond to find options which included Mom’s desires. You guessed it, she’s back in her old chair. These are only some of the examples.
Currently, she’s been requesting a couple of new, let’s say undergarments. I purchased her some looser fitting, modern options to try. She did not care for them. She wanted a certain size and style of her tried and true brand. It hasn’t been long ago that I got her some new ones with that description. I had to alter them because they were too small. When I reminded her of this, she still insisted she had to have that particular size. As she was adamant, I had to make a trip out of town and found the only two in the store of that size in the only acceptable color of white. I suspected it could be a futile effort.
Well, I had my lovely massage and as expected, I felt a lot better. In fact, my body was as loose as a limp noodle. On my drive home, I pondered my friend’s observation, like my mom, huh?
Remember on my way out the door, our home cell rang? It was Mom. We talked after my appointment. As her speech is extremely limited it generally involves twenty questions on my part to determine what she wants. I suspected what she wanted. It was about the new undergarments. They were too small. I took a deep breath and asked her what she wanted to do. She innocently responded in a commonly used answer with about as many words as she can string together since the strokes, “I don’t know.” I felt a calling to enter more fully into the halls of understanding and empathy. I desired to empower her, to offer choices. Perhaps I was softer and kinder. It was as if I was having a conversation with myself. Maybe I even inspired the smile we share. We are one, you know.
I contacted my friend later to thank her for her tremendous gift. No, it wasn’t the gift certificate, but it was far more valuable. It was her gift of timeless insight into the inheritance of the intangibles, one of which was my sense of humor and the sharing of laughter.