Friday, February 27, 2015

Thinking about my mother

I'm on my way to Seattle to daughter E's this afternoon. I haven't been down to her place in ages, so it's a welcome change from these few walls of my own castle (which I love, don't get me wrong!). We're meeting my sister, RE, and her daughters for a bit of a girls-day-out before RE's younger daughter, L, is home-bound herself for a while. Homebound with new life, I should say. Those are busy, exhausting, wonderful days, but she's looking forward to not being accountable for anyone but herself for a couple of days.

Thinking of seeing these particular women (and we WILL MISS YOU, SK!!!) makes me think of my mother. Of course. She loved such things as this. Sadly, most of the time, she wasn't actually comfortable when she was experiencing such weekends, and, in part, this is what I was thinking about. Mom loved planning events. She loved anticipating them. But the actual events never lived up to her expectations. I think this is because she herself never lived up to her expectations. That's really what it was. She had a giant hole inside herself that she wanted all of us to fill and we couldn't do it, no matter what we did. You wouldn't know it to look at her, but my mother was the least confident person I've ever met. She looked like she was as strong and tough and confident as anyone. She had a loud voice and a hard demeanor that she put to good use. Last December when I saw an old friend, he told SK that he remembers being a third grader in the school where she taught and being scared to death of Mrs. Crain. She did that on purpose so that on the first day of school the next year (and from then on) her new class of fourth-graders wouldn't be any trouble. Then she could begin to have fun with them. And, he told SK, she became the best teacher he ever had.

I remember that about my mom, too. She could be fun. She was a lot of fun and she loved to laugh. When we were kids, she laughed a lot. She stopped laughing so much as we got older. First, I think it was because she was always more comfortable with children. But later (though I didn't realize it at the time), her decreased inability to laugh at herself or at life came with her dementia.

A lot of things about her came as a result of Alzheimer's. That's one of the things I've been thinking about this morning. See, I extended a HUGE amount of grace very early on to Grampie when I recognized the signs of dementia, because Mom had already gone through it. I knew what was going on. Every day something else seemed different about him that might have bugged the heck out of me...except that it had already bugged the heck out of me when it was Mom.

That's the blunt fact of the matter.
Long before I made my peace with Mom, all the ways she was losing it bugged me. It was just plain hard. When she over-reacted to every little thing, I didn't say, "It's the disease," I said, "MOM, what's your problem?" When she got lost, over and over, I didn't say, "It's the disease, let's figure this out together." I said, "MOM, get it together!" When she came to my sisters and me in a panic and said, "I have a BIG problem!!!" and that problem was that she couldn't find an outlet to plug in something, I might have shown kindness on the outside, but I mimicked her afterwards.

In some ways, all the love I showed Grampie I was doing, in part, for my mother. Giving to her. I know that. I didn't always love her as I should have. I didn't get it. And the troubling thing is that she was the last person on this planet I should have treated so. Not merely because she's my mother but because she was so deeply insecure.

It's okay to feel badly about it. It's okay to let God show me how I might have been different with her. And to repent of how I was. My actions hurt an already-hurting woman.
Because He also showed me this:
Mom never thought she was good enough for heaven, for God, for salvation itself. That's true. She absolutely believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Holy One, that He came to save the lost. She even believed she was chief among sinners. Her hiccup, and it's a giant one, is that she NEVER felt worthy. She taught Bible studies (for decades), Sunday school, read her Bible front to back and back again, she researched and studied and prayed and prayed A LOT! And when all that began to fail she simply copied verse after verse into her notebooks. But somehow, she didn't ever feel good enough. THAT'S how deep her insecurity was, her lack of self-worth. I don't know why (though I can make a very strong, educated guess!) exactly where this came from, but I know this: my mother IS in heaven. Despite her fears and insecurities, despite her lack of faith about herself, her faith about God was deep. She believed so much about what He could and would do for others. About who He is.

And so this is what I wish for today, that I could see my mother TODAY. I wish I could see her as she is right now. In the throne room, I know she's whole and healthy and the person she was always meant to be. I can't imagine that person, but I really can't wait to meet her. I think I'll really like her. No, I think I'll love her.

One day she said to me, "I think I'm going to forget God." And I told her, "It's okay, Mom. God won't forget you!" That's the bottom line, isn't it? That, not only is it more important what God think of us than what we think of Him (as CS Lewis says),  it's immensely more important what God thinks about us than what we think about ourselves.


Melanie said...

Your post made me cry. That is exactly where I am with my mother right now. I get impatient with her and critical and I know it's because it scares me to see her dementia getting worse and worse. Thank you so much for your post. I just thought I was an awful person.

jeskmom said...

Melanie, you're not awful. You're normal. It is hard. Just plain hard. No one who hasn't gone through it can begin to understand. I will pray for you.

Pamela M. Steiner said...

wow, this is so powerful. Thank you for these insights and lessons learned that can help so many of us still going through this. We are going through this with my mother in law now. It's harder for her sons to deal with than it is for me, because they are too close to her and I can be more objective having seen this happen in my mother as well (to a certain degree). It's an awful thing to have to deal with no matter how close we are...and I can only pray my own sons will be patient with me when and if the time comes... Yes, heaven is going to be such a glorious place where we can embrace one another in perfect love and understanding and forgiveness. Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus!