Some days my ears just can’t take it. The sound of Mother’s voice hitting them feels like a loud, clanging gong that reverberates through my brain, threatening to blow the top off of my head. Today is one of those days.
I try to have some time alone at the start of the day. Time to take the supplements that help balance my endocrine system, time to talk to God and breathe in His rest for my spirit and soul; time to get to the computer to write in my Journal before the sound of the TV or the radio or Mother herself.
If I wake and she isn’t up, I listen for a few minutes to see if she’s stirring and about to head for her bathroom. If I hear anything, I lie still, eyes closed, playing possum until she’s come down the hall, adjusted the thermostat on the Heat/Air unit and gone into her bathroom. Once she’s done that, I have anywhere from one to two alone hours before she emerges, fully dressed, hair combed and sprayed, her diary writing done, her Bible readings done.
I mistimed it this morning. I’d been dozing and thinking about getting out of bed for about forty minutes, the house still totally silent when I decided to get up and get into the home office and on the computer, usually another good way to avoid first thing in the day contact. I’d done stretches and taken supplements and was turning up the heat when her bedroom door opened.
She emerged in her pale lavender robe, her hair mussed, her insulated cup in one hand, the other hand on her footed cane.
“You’re up?” She began as she walked down the hall toward me, the sound of the clunk of her cane on the floor in front of her with each step. “Did you turn the heat up?” Clunk. “Is the sun already on that side of the house?” Clunk. “Did you sleep cold?” Clunk. “That heater blower fan just doesn’t work right.”
“Uh huh.” I answer to each thing she says, my brain reacting to each of her comments by zooming off in a dozen directions, leaving me irritated, frazzled and angry. I’d lost a pill under the bed, so I lean over and pull up the bed dust ruffle, but still I know she’s coming closer. She’s moved into my open bedroom door. I keep looking for that pill, not talking; anything to discourage interaction; anything to keep me from saying something rude or caustic.
Fortunately, the house is cool enough at 68 degrees that she can’t stand there long and she goes into her bathroom, turns on the ceiling heater and closes the door.
I breathe deeply, my ears and mind immediately less stimulated, I move around the room, making the bed, tidying up. The easier days when I lived by myself and had all the alone time in the mornings that I wanted are gone. I used the time in the same way I try to do now, spending time with God, listening to the Bible on tape or to Christian music. By the time I left the house for work, I had been reminded of who I was: a child of God. Loved by Him and with His grace and power, I could tackle the day. I was ready. Not that my days were simple or easy but by spending time with God first, I went out prepared. Those days with the luxury of being alone and making choices that suited me best have changed. Now all decisions are shared and I find myself in the pressure cooker of most of my waking hours in the same space as the person who gave me birth. Most adult children know what a challenge can be.
Tuning her out nags at me. I need distance from her but I’m torn by needing time to be myself, time to develop a writing skill to prepare for the future I will have once she is gone versus the need to be available to her as her caregiver along with the need to give her respect. Help me, God, is my thought as I breathe in and out.
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn your statutes,” pops into my brain.
Ah, yes, Proverbs 119:71. Yes, it is good for me to be here with Mother, good for me to have to learn to deal with the differences in our personalities, good for me to learn to react in love, in graciousness. Good for me to have to throw myself back into God’s arms, to drink in His love and strength, to depend upon Him for this challenge. Good for me to know that I can’t do this on my own. Good for me to know that depending upon myself only leads to semi-solutions like tuning her out or playing possum. Those drain me of energy and vitality. They do nothing to ease the irritations.
“It is good for me, God, to lean on your strength, to rely on you.” Good for me to be reminded, Victoria, God knows the journey you need to take before you do. I breathe deeply and feel the love and peace of God float across my frazzled nerves and fractured thoughts.
As Mother emerges from the bathroom some time later, I turn to her and smile, “How are you today, Mother?”