"Now you've done it!" is a phrase I've heard my whole life. When I spilled my milk on the freshly laundered terry-cloth table cloth, skinned a knee, broke a shoelace or melted my boots on the fire. It's a phrase straight out of my childhood, straight from my father's lips. "Now you've done it," when I made one of my siblings, or (even worse) my mother, cry.
And that last, making my mother cry, is something I have a particular knack at. One might even say, a gift, if one were also gifted at sarcasm, as the Beve and my siblings are. I started being able to make my mother cry just about the time I stopped liking her, which was also just about the time she bought me my first bra, when I was still flat as a board (which boys in my class called me more than once, and for longer than you might believe. But I'm not bitter!). Yep, I've always had great facility at causing tears in my mother. But then, I'm not alone in this. Don't throw me under the bus. All six of us could do it. Did it. With increased regularity as the years--and our need for her--flew by.
So it should come as no surprise that once again (imagine me bowing here), I made her cry today. And when I say cry, I'm talking great, body-wracking sobs that went on and on and on. What made it so extremely unexpected was two things. First, RE has told me that she's increasingly vacant. Neither speaks, nor even seems to see visitors. But (and this is the other thing), today when we walked into the dining room where she was eating spaghetti, and definitely actually eating it, she looked up and zeroed in on my face. Knew me. Smiled at me as if she'd been waiting for me. She not only allowed me to hug her, but put her arms around me and patted me on the back. RE and I sat at her table with her, and her rather vociferous table-mate who didn't make any more sense than Mom ever does, and we tried to get Mom to go back to her meal. It was not to be, however. She was too distracted by our presence. There were large wet spots on the tablecloth, which I didn't pay too much attention to until she tried pouring her cranberry juice into my eggnog latte. I should have known better than to place my latte within her grasp. She's a great one for pouring these days, apparently.
So we took her to her room. And set to work on the business of the day, making our mother cry. OK, that wasn't the goal when we walked in. We had some hair-brained idea that it might be a good thing to pray with Mom. But before I was three sentences in, praying that she recognize how much God loves her, she said, "NO!" rather angrily. Then began to sob. She had plenty to say about it, however, if we could have but understood it. Finally, RE mouthed to me "Worthiness." And that's it. Mom doesn't feel worthy. Not of our love, nor of God's. Especially of God's. Never has. Clearly, even though though there isn't much left of her brain, that feeling has stuck like glue to her.
A few moments later, she was trying to express herself, and I finally asked, "Are you afraid?" "Yes," she answered clearly. "Afraid to die?" Sobbing more, she said, "Yes." And there we had it, just as we might have guessed all these years. Mom's two core feelings, even in her greatly reduced state are that she doesn't feel worthy of love, and therefore, is afraid to die.
Nothing we said helped her today. We couldn't divert her from crying or calm her in any way. It's clear that she really thinks she is dying, and though we told her that she isn't--not today, at least--she didn't believe us. Anymore than she believed us when I said, repeatedly, "God loves you. No, Mom, God loves you. God loves you."
Now I've done it. I made my mother cry again. The good news of the day is that she was more present than she's been in the last ten months. Completely present from beginning to end of our visit. The bad news is she was completely present. She knew, she really knew, that she wasn't where she belonged, was stuck there, and was sorely scared by this terrible thing going on in her brain. We sat with her a while longer, letting her cry, having no answers that could comfort. What answers could there be? What a horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad day: that the real her came to the surface for a moment, and the surface was this. Now she's done it--my mother's made me cry...