It seems to be the theme in the history of mama and me. Here too soon. Mama was a baby when she had me, not yet 16. My grandmother told me the story of the day I came into this world in a letter she wrote me on my 16th birthday. She talked about how worried they had been for mama and for me. She talked about all the hopes she had for us both.
When I announced to my mom that she would be a grandmother I was only 17. There were all kinds of bribes and arguments and declarations about why I shouldn’t go thru with the pregnancy. Only one resonated, tho it didn’t change my course–
“But Nessa, I’m not ready to be a grandma!!!”
And in that moment began the push and pull that would be our relationship. Her trying to hang on to her baby and me trying to assert myself as a grown woman and mom (though I didn’t know how to be either just yet). That isn’t to say our relationship was bad. It was not. But it was always a battle of wills. Who was right? Who was in charge? In her defense, I recognize now I cut her off at the pass. Made grown up choices before she was done raising me. I had no problem reminding her that I was someone’s mom and that meant she couldn’t tell me what to do.
Fast forward more than 20 years of disagreements and tears. We find ourselves once again battling over who is right and who is in charge.
In 2012, after many decades of caring for the world before caring for herself, mama had a stroke. Her eyesight was failing due to years of neglected diabetes and she couldn’t work anymore. She spent a few years with my brother before she landed in the hospital for end stage renal failure. He had tried his best to care for her but couldn’t monitor what she was eating and if she was taking her medicines during his work day. Mama used that time to do everything she wasn’t supposed to from fast food to failing to take her injections. She was like a spoiled child and Mike just couldn’t reign her in.
In 2016 just days before her 58 birthday she nearly died. She was refusing surgery. She was refusing dialysis. She was just flat out refusing everything. I was out of state when she was admitted to the hospital. She told the doctors they would have to wait for me to arrive before she made any decisions. She was stalling.
By the time I got to Southern Methodist the doctors were beyond frustrated. Someone needed to make some decisions, the specialist said, or she may not leave the hospital alive. It was then I took over. And it’s been push and pull ever since.
She didn’t get to chose where she would live. We as her children decided it would be best for her to come home with me. I have the most flexible work schedule and a good handle on her medical needs. She doesn’t get to choose what she eats because we have to closely monitor her diabetes, blood pressure, potassium intake and fluids. She doesn’t have much say in what she wears or where she goes because she can’t see to get around. (She also refuses the occupational therapy that might make that easier.) Most days she isn’t happy… This isn’t where she expected to be at this stage in her life.
And that makes two of us.
At 42 with three grown children I imagined I would have the chance to enjoy a little freedom. As a young mom myself I spent my 20s changing diapers and chasing the career ladder. I was finally at a point in my life where the kids were pretty much gone, the money was good and I could choose how to spend my time. My husband and I were starting to travel. We were getting accustomed to cooking for two. Life finally had a little breathing room. Then from one day to the next it all changed.
Granted, no one pushed me into this role. I walked into it willingly. I needed to be the one to care for her, however long that may be. I’m grateful for every minute and try to remind myself of that when I’m frustrated. When she is frustrated. When we are both trying to figure out who is right and who is in charge.
I always knew I would have to care for her one day. That day just came too soon…