Sometimes I think that the lessons of my life
have been delivered in a series
of disasters and catastrophes.
It is as if I somehow needed to
go sailing in a little paper boat,
during a raging storm,
in order to learn about the need for
Maybe if I had been paying more attention
to the seemingly insignificant events
of everyday life, I would have noticed
them gathering heavily and ominously
like clouds do, just before a hurricane.
Maybe I would not have set sail in such a flimsy boat.
And maybe now I wouldn’t be digging
through the rubble and ruin
to find the lessons left by so many storms.
So now my life again is filled with storms–
My mother has Alzheimer’s.
I am her sole care giver.
I have no siblings to share this with.
It sucks my soul and my sanity and sometimes–
my sense that I can survive this.
And I am constantly thinking how I shouldn’t be
alone with this and how unfair it is–
and how I need my brother–
who left the world so long ago–
who died in such a terrible way–
to be here with me now–
learning what I am learning.
Of course I ask myself
Why would I write this?
Why would I dwell on this subject?
Why would I go to this place in my head?
When I could be in my imaginary garden
Playing with my comic fantasies
Or painting pretty pictures–
I am trying to do what
Ernest Hemingway advises–
“Write hard and clear about what hurts.”
Ok–so-this is what hurts.
I wake up in the morning, every morning–
with a feeling of raw dread
And I panic. What’s next?
Will I survive this twister?
Whatever it is?
And then I breathe.
Because in truth I am ok.
It is my mother who is not.
She is losing herself.
It’s impossible to help her.
I can not argue with her delusions.
I can not fight with her paranoia.
I wouldn’t even try.
But little brother–
she never got over losing you.
And every day she relives
the heartache of that loss.
And all her other losses–
And every day she suffers.
It’s amazing in some ways–
How she fights for what she wants–
how she refuses what she doesn’t–
She is not compliant.
She is fierce.
She’s a force to be reckoned with.
She is not going down without a fight.
It’s a gift to me in some ways.
Not a welcome gift.
Not a gift I would want to thank anyone for.
But a gift nonetheless.
It has something to do with my own healing
and I don’t fully understand it yet.
It’s a steep learning curve–
Grappling with this–
Finding meaning in it.
I am suddenly coming to the harsh realization,
that this is the painful climax–
the cruel resolution–
of a story that began even before she was born.
Perhaps I can come to terms with
my own true story as I play my part in this one.
And though it’s really tough-
and I would prefer this was all a bad dream–
I have to be awake and present for it.
I have something to learn here.
This is the part of my life story–
where I lose my mother.
And this is the part of her story
where she loses herself.
And it isn’t going to get better for her.
Not this time.
She wont escape this.
I can’t protect or rescue her from this.
All I can do is walk down this dark road with her,
holding her hand, through this desolate landscape.
And Oh my God–
I’m trying to understand what is being asked of me
by my own soul.
What teaching am I meant to take from this
violent and terrible storm–
And why does it have to be so hard
to learn whatever it is I am learning?
When I think of my mom, usually words like —
Vitriolic, Vindictive, Venomous, Victimizing–Viscious–
are the first that come to mind.
But seriously folks–
And now that she has Alzheimer’s I can add
Delusional and Desperate and Demonic.
When she was young and I was a child,
when we were children–
She was glamourous.
The prettiest mom of all the moms.
A party girl.
And a singer.
A beautiful voice.
Everyone would ask her to sing
And she always would.
Single mom in a time when there
wasn’t a name for it–
Or an understanding of how difficult it is to
Cruel if I displeased her–
abusive they would say now-
moody, mean, manic-depressive–
although we didn’t have a name for
the crazy times that came and went.
Mostly I loved her.
Mostly I adored her.
She was the queen of my world.
And I did everything I could to
please her and protect her.
I usually disappointed her.
In childhood I learned how to take care of myself,
And in truth–I gave birth to myself–my true self–
when I chose to be an artist.
but that is part of another chapter–
I have found so much I can admire about my mom.
I can admire her and understand her now–
She is fighting for her life.
And maybe she always was.
The only way she knew how to live was to fight.
She is smart as a fox and as fierce.
She knows where the traps are.
She can smell them.
Little old crazy fox-woman,
I can love her for that.
Coping with her terrible behaviour now,
and actively making a point to remember
all the beauty and love that she
offered me in her own way–
is a way I can love myself.
Sometimes I am not successful and I torment myself
with my life long addiction to self pity.
But then I snap out of it and remember that I don’t actually
need to suffer in this. It is my Mom who is actually suffering.
And I stand back up and rise to what is being asked of me.
I can do this. I tell myself.
Thank you God for honouring me with this mighty task
and for allowing my soul to journey through this difficult
terrain. Help me continue to hold the light within myself
enough to see the road in front of me.
And to learn the lessons that my life is offering me.
I am trying to speak these true and difficult things out loud
so as to cross that bridge between art and life–
and see if I can pick up the pieces of my torn and
tattered soul over there in that place between the worlds.