I'm still stuck on stages. (Click to read yesterday's explanatory post)
I've been walking around all day getting used to the idea that G'ma is not demented (I know that) nor deteriorating (I know that) but that she's also not the same woman she was in her previous stage. As the wonderful Occupational Therapist at the rehab hospital told me: my old mother is gone, but this new one is pretty cool.
That other woman was independent, judgmental and always there when I needed her. At this new point in her life, she's still judgmental and emotionally available but she's also less controlling. I think it's a consequence of not being able to recapture events gone by; it's awfully hard to assert your will if you have no memory of the conversation in which you expressed your opinion. I've been working on the notion that this isn't disease or disability but merely another stage, complete with its own peculiar joys and challenges.
On a certain level, that's a very brave place to be. I'm accepting her for who she is and I'm not trying to medicate or therapize or condition it away. I am in the moment with her, not thinking about the past. I'm just going with the flow, and really meaning it when I say that it doesn't bother me to walk at her slow pace - because if she weren't here I wouldn't be walking with her at all, slowly or quickly. When she asks me what the yellow blossomed trees are, I am embracing the fact that my mom is in the front seat next to me, noticing the palo verdes against the blue sky. I'm not mourning the loss of my old mom, who would have been comparing those trees to the ones in my front yard and giving me advice on how to improve the ones I was trying to nurture.
Before she moved here, I had a monolithic view of my maternal unit. When she came here and fell and fell again and showed me that she really couldn't/shouldn't/didn't want to live on her own, I resisted the notion with every fiber of my being. No way was she giving up her independence. She'd put up with my father for 53 long years and she was going to enjoy her dotage if it killed me. And it nearly did kill us both.
Once we were able to give up the notion of her maintaining her own apartment on her own...... typing that phrase made me stop. Right here on the love seat. I'm reading it over and over again and I'm finding that I'm smiling. We were able to give up the notion of her living on her own. Not I. I typed it without considering the pronoun, because I was going someplace with the thought (I'll get there, I promise). But seeing it there makes me realize that it truly was a joint decision. Sure, she said I trust you and it's true that I did all the research and only showed her the place I wanted her to choose, but that was okay with her. It wasn't only laziness on her part (though that was certainly a big piece of it -- I am looking at this honestly now) but it was also an indication of what this next stage is all about. I didn't recognize it at the time, but she was growing.... growing older....growing old..... growing up?
When do we stop growing up and start growing old?
Perhaps that the operant question - when does change begin to be seen as malfunction. I can't do it anymore and we all have those it's, don't we. Play basketball, knit with black yarn, weed the garden... aging is so often about what is lost. What I am poking around at, trying to figure out, examining from many angles, is the differentiation of the stages of adulthood. There's work and self-sufficiency and, sometimes, parenthood, and they all can be defined. But once the external descriptors are gone, once the things by which others define us disappear, what do we have to define the changes except what is lost.
My plan is to resist that configuration. I am going to delight in the silliness of repeating myself 100 times an hour. I am going to giggle when G'ma won't decide between the banquette or the chair. Laughter will roll forth as I tell her to take my brother's bar mitzvah picture off the wall to show the hairdresser the style she'd like to sport, because there's no way in the world she remembers what she used to look like.
Our stages are less defined, but they are still there. My mission, and I've chosen to accept it, is to find positive demarcations. I like the idea that I'm still growing up.