Sick mom makes Mother’s Day bittersweet

This was the first year Mother’s Day was hard for me, and this feeling takes me by surprise. When I go to see her, I’m usually chirpy and full of updates – which will never be understood but make me feel better to put out there.

This year, I had fully expected to do that when I went with the whole family. I’d like to think that somewhere in her mind, or maybe in a metaphysical way, she can feel our love.

Mom and me

We arrived at the care home, sat down on the sofa with her. She’s very loving and all she has done for a while now is repeatedly look at me and tell me, “I love you.”

She is a very sweet lady and we’re lucky this disease, which carves itself into a person’s psyche in unpredictable ways, has not changed her demeanor. Other people get paranoid and angry. She’s pleasant.

For some reason, when she told me she loved me, I looked into her eyes and held the gaze. I felt a connection.

Maybe it’s my imagination, but I felt she was actually present and comprehending that moment. We looked at each other. She said it again.

“I love you too, Mom,” I responded. We were still gazing. The connection expanded in my heart. It felt like a little bit of electricity or adrenaline. Interesting.

It doesn’t happen often for me. Does it for you? People don’t really talk about this. I don’t know.

As I think about it, I glimpse the faces of my friends, but social convention dictates that when you sit together, you don’t really stop to look into their eyes. Maybe I will start trying it, though I have to be careful my friends don’t think I’m romantic.

I was looking into her eyes and I started to cry, and I haven’t stopped. Because it was a gift to communicate with her again, even if for a few seconds. Because I miss her. Because I’m sorry she is deteriorating. Because she was sorry she is deteriorating, when she was still able to know it.

Then, I started to tell her all the things I’ve been thinking about for five years. My life was a blur since her diagnosis in 2012 and there hadn’t been a quiet moment, or the energy to hold these thoughts in my head, or even a plan to verbalize assorted feelings. But it felt right today.

“I miss you, Mom. I hate that you got sick. I’m sad we can’t talk anymore, or that you don’t know our lives today and your granddaughter. I’m sorry I don’t visit as much as I should. I went through a hard time, and I’m still getting over that. If you were well, I know you would have been there for me- and I really needed you. I was essentially abandoned by others I thought would be there for me, and that was hurtful,” I confessed, weeping.

I asked her if she felt comfortable, and she said yes. I reminded her that I loved her and appreciated her for being my mother.

I’m certain she was not mentally present for any of my speech. I just need to think that my words float in the ether and will make their way to her spirit.

The horrible thing about Alzheimer’s is that I keep falling into new stages of grief. I don’t know when it will come, but it’s happened enough now that the best way I can brace for it is to not be surprised when another cycle of sadness overtakes me. If there is an upside, it’s that I have every opportunity for closure because I’ve had years and years to think of what I need to say.

At this point, though, I think there is nothing more to say. It’s just my duty to be.

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13 thoughts on “Sick mom makes Mother’s Day bittersweet

  • May 18, 2017 at 10:23 am
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    I am not a medical professional by any means. Just wanted to state that up front. BUT I did feel like I might be able to provide some thoughts in that I have some experience in your situation. AND I have had much feedback from friends and family who have been through it with their loved ones and how they dealt with it that have helped me and my wife by sharing their experience. At first we felt like my MIL was unique and what we were experiencing was something that was also unique and therefore no one would understand or could help. What we found out was that while everyone else’s situation was not exactly what we were experiencing it helped to hear what others did to cope in theirs.

    Everyone is different and handles things differently but I think it is great that you know what you want to share with her and if verbalizing it to her is your way of helping YOU then I think you should assume she is hearing and comprehending what you’re saying and feel good that you are able to get that closure.

    Consider that right now she is physically here and that representation IMHO helps a lot. The alternative is to wait until she is no longer here physically and then “speak to her” spiritually some way. Which is fine too if you believe that strongly but if that doesn’t work then you are kind of messed up because you can’t go back. If you do it now at least you’ve done it and when the time comes that she is not here you can do it then too if you weren’t completely satisfied with the results now. Not sure if that makes sense or if that even will work for you but it is just something that I thought I would mention as what I read was you trying to be the “good Asian daughter” and maybe not say something because that is not “right”. You can respect your elders but still do what you need to do for your own sanity and spirit too.

    Ironically I am handling my current situation completely the opposite of what I just told you. I verbally all kinds of stupid stuff directly to my MIL just to keep my sanity and to continue to forge on a do what has to be done. I count on the fact that the “real her” and her spirit knows that in my heart I love and care about her as she does about the rest of us. People deal with what they encounter in life in different ways. As long as you have a pure heart and the right intentions then all is good.

    Although I think some who had read my Facebook posts about my #MILadventures may feel differently about how pure my heart actually is. Screw ’em. Hahaha.

    Take care Diane!

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  • May 18, 2017 at 11:45 am
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    I pray that she will be alright

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  • May 18, 2017 at 12:56 pm
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    I love you sis….i cannot imagine how strong I would ve been to see that happen to my mom…our relationship was always a flurry of sadness, emptiness and confusion because at the time I didn’t know how to understand her…she was Chinese and like Joy Luck Club I describe our relationship like Waverly and her mom…I always felt that she hated me, was disappointed that I was a girl…and just when things was leveling out…she was gone….she passed away and i didnt get to say goodbye…BUT as my husband held me that morning he said….you were always telling mom goodbye….she knows…i love you Diane….forever my Kamehameha Dorm sister…

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  • May 18, 2017 at 7:03 pm
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    I hope your mom is content and lives peacefully.

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  • May 19, 2017 at 6:29 am
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    Thank you for sharing your mom with us.
    And thanks to your mom for sharing you with us.

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  • May 21, 2017 at 8:19 pm
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    Mahalo Diane Ako, for sharing your inspiring story. I found this very touching, because I am in a very similar situation with my mom. I am her full-time caregiver. It hurts and sad to see that my mom yearns for her other children, with what little time they could or would offer to spend with her. I know actions speaks louder than words.

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  • May 21, 2017 at 8:27 pm
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    This tugs at my heart. I feel your emotions. Your mother will always be your mother like no other. Love her no matter what. Cherish these moments close to your heart.

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    • May 22, 2017 at 2:12 pm
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      I’m so touched by all your kind comments. Wow! THANK YOU.

      Hwnlz, I’m sorry about your mom’s feelings about your siblings. It’s a weird thing; my aunt endured that, too, when she was the primary caregiver for my grandmother. It bothered her as well, and it wasn’t fair since the other children lived on the mainland so they simply were not able to physically do the daily caregiving. (I’m sure they contributed in different ways.) But you’re right: you have to just be comfortable and confident in your heart that you are an excellent child, and that in the end, you will have no regrets on how you handled her care.

      Rachel, Hi Sis, and I’m also sorry about your situation. Sometimes I wonder why life gives us difficult or unfair situations. I’ve decided that it’s somehow to help us grow. Maybe we don’t see how it helps now, but it shows later. So hard. Big hugs to you.

      Russ, you are so, so wonderful to share how you cope. You’re right. It helps to hear how others deal with it. At least I know I’m not alone. I’m pretty open (as you can tell by my blogs!) and there isn’t anything I held/ hold back from her. I have always had a good relationship with her. She was my best friend until I met my husband, and even at that, she remained one of my best friends. I could say anything to her and she was always a safe place to turn. She was completely there for me, and I’m grateful. I’m not angry with her. I just miss my confidant. I was confiding in her/ apologizing for not visiting more in the last few years. And I’m sure she forgives me.

      Ed, Aww, thanks. News was a fun job.

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      • May 22, 2017 at 4:38 pm
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        I went thru what you are going thru. At least you have happy thoughts. I think as children we all go thru the same thing. The main thing you are there for her. BTW. I miss seeing you on the news. You are one of the best. Take care!

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  • June 9, 2017 at 5:02 pm
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    We’ve never met and I only see you on TV. I’m saddened to hear of your Moms illness. Sad she doesn’t comprehend anymore. Sad that she can’t “be there” for you.

    Love, especially a Mothers love, can transcend this debilitating disease. It seems as if her repeated “I love you’s” hasn’t changed her one little old bit! Relish every single one!!! Love and light, peace and joy to you both!

    I always used to end my phone calls or visits with my Mom, with, “I love you more” after her “I love you.” The last time we spoke was on a Saturday. I was the last to leave the hospital that evening. I kissed her goodbye and told her that I loved her. Her response: “I love you more.” Normally I would follow it up with, “not, I love you more.” This night, I said, “yeah, you probably do.” She passed the following Monday. Your Mom knows you and hears you! Just keep on talking and letting her know what’s going on with you….she wants to know!

    On a final note, your comment on feeling abandoned by people who you thought would be there for you and weren’t and the hurt from that. I was there too! I lost all but one friend in a painful divorce. It took me about 2 years to work through the grief and sadness. I can so empathize with you. I hope and pray you’ve found healing.

    Much love and aloha,

    Kimberly (aka Tweedles)

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  • June 11, 2017 at 12:31 am
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    Glad to see your mom doing OK for Mother’s Day (even if this comment is way past that date). Unfortunately, this past Mother’s Day was the first one I had gone through without one of my Grandmas (my Dad’s mom) because she died on 4/17/17 from pneumonia… just when she was showing little improvement from a fall in her house and being taken to Castle, then Anne Pearl in Kaneohe. She had unfortunately took a turn for the worst then, and she passed away on 4/17 (a Monday night). I remember that because I was too sick with a nagging cough and body aches over the Easter weekend. My Pops (my Dad’s father) has it worse because of how many times he says he misses her. 🙁

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    • June 11, 2017 at 9:24 pm
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      Mathew – I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother’s passing! I think I remember you posting that to Facebook? Anyhow, what an emotional roller coaster. What I find touching, though, is how well loved she was. My thoughts are with your family as you transition through grief.

      Kimberly – or Tweedles! Thank you for a really thoughtful comment and sharing your story with your own mother. What an interesting coincidence that the one time you changed your regular goodbye “script” was followed by her passing. I like to think we see our loved ones again. May you have that joy. May we all have that joy.

      As for abandonment, I’m impressed you paid attention to what I sometimes think is a small detail because many people just skim. I’m sorry you went through it, too. I’m not needy or weak, but I did need logistical assistance, and… *crickets chirping*

      So to sum: People suck! Get a dog! (Snarky laugh.)

      In seriousness, though- most of the people I thought would be there for me (relatives, longtime close friends, weren’t; but new people came from unexpected places to offer help. I think it’s life’s way of saying to thoroughly close a chapter- events and relationships. I’m sure you do this too: I reframed how I perceive/value the old friends. I also have to learn to accept that people are quite limited.

      I came to terms. It’s not worth it to stay angry. Who has energy for that? Sounds like you feel the same. Good for us.

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      • June 15, 2017 at 1:46 am
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        Yes I did post that to FB — her funeral was the 3rd one I had since the week before Easter. If I had to describe my Grandma in one word, it’s “Lucky” because I remember one Vegas trip years ago that she won about $600. Thanks for the well wishes, too, and I sure hope that’s the last funeral I have for a LONG time.

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