Dogged Constancy

… the more dogged constancy is required


We will celebrate my mother’s 85th birthday in a couple of months. As it is, a diagnosis of Alzheimer was medically confirmed a couple of years ago.

Several new behavioural symptoms have now been added to previous patterns of dysfunctional pride, contrariness, paranoia and, of course, a degree of confusion about certain situations, real or imagined.

My mother is a widow now.  She has resettled in a nearby, lovely, well-managed retirement village which is a blessing, considering the constant support she needs for all engagements outside of her apartment. Considering, too, that I visit her at least three afternoons a week and make myself available for any extra need or appointment she might have, how much more complicated it would have been if she had chosen to remain on the coast, a three-hour round trip from my home!

What is interesting is that, even though my mother is still physically and mentally able, up to a point, roles have been reversed.

In my 20’s, I made the deliberate choice of not ever becoming a mother. In my 40’s, I was intent on getting my mother to eventually express a fondness for me though, back then, I was not prepared to give her more than one afternoon per month.

My own energy was spiky and frazzled in anticipation of the ‘conversations’ we would no doubt have on the same recurring topics, mainly acidic belittlement of Myarh and criticism of my personal priorities, as we walked on the seaside esplanade where she lived with my stepfather.

Here I am now, in my 60’s, cast in the role of ‘mother’ to a fractious, reactive, elderly being – the one I want to protect from herself and from debilitating old age.

My little mother is only 5ft tall now. Though often acting like a cantankerous, spoilt child she is, understandably, too old to be sent to her room pending a heartfelt apology along the lines of, ‘I’m so sorry, my darling. I didn’t mean what I said. Please, don’t hold it against me.’

Still, as the saying goes, Never say never. As long as there is life, there is hope.

If and when such a moment of ‘awakeness’ ultimately happens, it will be nothing short of a delightful, heart-warming relief for both of us – but too late to be a game-changer.

To my mother’s credit, there have been several moments over the years when she articulated a sincere appreciation of Myahr’s ‘strength of character’ and kindness, as well as gratitude for the solicitude we both bestow on her in different ways.   These thoughts, I know, filter up from the ‘heart’ of my little mother, the one who has let herself get locked inside a dysfunctional cage-like mindset.

These moments of softness are the best a narcissistic personality further exacerbated by old age dementia can yield.  Such moments are definitely heart-melting. Definitely big hi-five moments or, as Yudit, my mentor, used to say, ‘Such moments are precious pearls in a sea of junk. Preserve them as such.’

As I type these words, I’m thinking wryly that, perhaps it is true that some ‘things’ cannot be altogether avoided.  They might present differently.   They might have a different ring.  They might be heavier or lighter but … in their essence … they are.  The intended experience is manifested by hook or by crook. I have been forced to learn the patience, acceptance of a good mother. I have learned to prioritise my time differently to accommodate my mother’s needs.

Mind-meandering back to the concept of delayed gratification discussed earlier, delayed gratification, here, means that Myahr and I have agreed to postpone the freedom of movement that is often the reward of new retirees such as a few days away here and there and travelling further afield. Instead, we have agreed to stand by, aware and awake, ready to respond to my mother’s needs as they arise.

The takeaway here, the ultimate reason behind this very long expose of what I like to call my rite of passage into maturity of mind and spirit, is that ‘it’ has brought Myarh and me closer than might have been otherwise possible. We have neither exploded or imploded under the pressure and strain. Instead, we have bonded through thick and thin beyond ‘mere’ love.   We have bonded like soldiers in the line of duty. And the good news is that neither one of us got wounded. For now, we enjoy a calm, comfortable and sustaining homelife with Oscar, our gentle dog.

We keep doing what we need to do with the best energy possible, knowing that in the fullness of time – no rush – free of any regrets we will enjoy the fruit of our labour of love. A peaceful mind will be our reward, our excellent reward, for not fretting about our ‘best retirement years being wasted’.  From our calm resilience, contentment will flow.

Ultimately, the situation that landed on Myahr’s lap by karmic association, and the way she has handled herself through it all, illustrates that mastering one’s karmic responsibilities, such as they present themselves underfoot, is a requirement for living an optimal life.

Bottom line: The better we can manage the flow and type of energy we allow to flow through our body, the more attuned we are and the better we can respond – rather than react to life through inappropriate actions and inactions.

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The Stepping Stones Series

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