I like that title for this post, but I don't even know why. I may change it, or, I'll discover why as I write.
After writing the last post, about Mom wanting to die even in the midst of loving family and laughs and warmth, I felt like I should write something about the efforts we have made to ensure she has a rich life. I wanted to write about what we've done to help her want to live. A great assisted living facility with loads of activities and personal attention. A number of nice folks up and down her hallway and at meals. Frequent phone calls. Daily visits. Books for the Blind. On and on. But she chooses to sit and flip TV channels and wait for death to come. It's a source of great frustration to me and my sister. We nag, we scold, we cajole, we make deals, we offer ideas.
And then it hit me. This is not about me or my efforts. This is about her and her life.
This is NOT about me being a good-enough daughter. It's NOT about my needing to create purpose or joy in my mother's life.
I only need to offer what I have available. She accepts it, or not. But either way, she is responsible for her life, her own happiness and meaning. Her engagement - or lack of engagement and meaning.
My sister and I have talked about this a lot. She is angry and frustrated, I am sad and frustrated. She said she would like Mom to be more like a friend of hers who is a wonderful exemplary strong odler woman who remained interested in life and engaged and inspiring through very-old-age. She wants more for Mom. I also want more for Mom, but I tend to feel that she is doing all she can, probably, or at least all she is willing to do. More accepting of 'as is' rather than what I'd wish for her (or wish for me, at that age). My sister's eagerness to make Mom into more may be really good for Mom - or it may be just frustration on all sides.
And we can grieve that she is not that amazing woman that others turn to for inspiration. She is quite ordinary. She's tired and wants to die.
Our reactions to this situation play out, to some extent, an old family story. When I was about 7 or so, (and my sister a bit younger and my brother about 4 years older), my brother bought a little chick at the grocery store just before Easter, a gift to my mom. (Yep, they did that back in the 1950's. Bad idea.) The chick followed my mother everywhere, peeping constantly. One day my family all went out for a few hours, and we put the chick in a box, and we put our puppy in another box. When we came home, both boxes were upturned and all that remained of the chick was a foot and a feather. The personalities of the 3 kids are what have played out to this day, to some extent. My little sister was furious, I was crying, and my brother shrugged and complained about "Sixty nine cents down the drain". And even now, we find ourselves in similar reactions - my sister's anger, my sadness and depression.
Frankly, I think I will approach old-old-age better, thanks to this experience with my Mom. I intend to squeeze every bit of life out of the life I still have, right to the end. I want to stay engaged, curious, purposeful. I want to contribute to community and Life. I don't want to die before I'm dead.
So Mom's waiting for death - whose problem is it? It's hers. I can help but I can't make her into someone else, not now, not ever. She is herself, and I am me. It's freeing. I can breathe. But I only need to breathe for myself.