I Wasn’t a Good Mother

Source of photo: parents.com

It had been a rough month. Our stepfather, who was still mobile at the time, had begun getting up in the night and wandering in and out of other seniors’ rooms. He was – until the very end – such a gentle man that we knew he posed no threat whatsoever to the other people living on his floor, but you cannot explain that to a senior who also has dementia. Waking up to a strange man hovering over you – making strange “huh-huh-huh” sounds over and over since he lost the ability to speak – was very frightening to the other residents. We were informed that our stepfather would be moved to another floor better suited to care for his declining abilities.

Even though he had also been greatly disturbing our mother’s sleep as well (they were still in the same room together), Mom was devasted. After much conversing with the staff (and with Mom), we made the difficult decision to move them both. They would no longer be in a room together, but their rooms on the new floor would be side by side. We were concerned about how the move would affect Mom’s social skills: the floor they were currently on was filled with lively, cognisant folks who actively participated in all kinds of fun activities. Most of the seniors on the floor where they were moving were either bed-ridden or as unable to communicate as our stepfather was. Mom would have no stimulation from fellow residents.

Mom, however, was adamant: she would have it no other way. On the day of the move, I, my sister and our stepfather’s niece scurried back and forth setting up their new rooms and doing our best to make both rooms feel like home again.

It never rains but it pours. Covid lockdowns were still in full swing at the time (the fact that all three of us had been permitted to come and help with the move was a huge exception to a very stringent rule); we had just nervously gotten our first Covid shots, hoping all the conspiracy theories were just that; conspiracy theories; and to top it all off, we discovered that the house we had been trying to sell in another province for the past (then) six years was not going to happen: our renter would not be able to buy the house after all. The final blow was a call from Hydro, informing us that ‘we’ owed them thousands of dollars that our renter was supposed to have been paying for the past two years.

It was not a good month.

When my sister called to tell me Mom had an abscess in her abdomen and had been rushed to the hospital, everything else went straight to the back burner. I quickly repacked my suitcase and headed back across our province. My sister deals with most of the day-to-day things regarding our Mom’s care and we agreed a long time ago that I will deal with the big, unusual stuff – like hospital stays.

Mom was in the hospital for ten days. I am not a natural nurse: I don’t have that knack for knowing what to do in an emergency. But I am a good listener and well, I really love my Mom. Over the course of her stay at the hospital, I learned to anticipate when I should help her to the bathroom (before it became an emergency she isn’t able to hurry for, anymore). I helped her get cleaned up a bit while she was in the bathroom, and got her changed into a fresh hospital gown when she needed one. I kept her bed and pillows straightened so the nurses wouldn’t have to do that (they were busy enough). I helped her into a nice comfortable chair at mealtimes so it would feel more like an event (rather than just eating in bed). As she gained a bit of strength, I took her for short walks around the hospital ward, so she would be able to better picture where she was.

And we talked. A lot. About anything and everything.

I have – and always have had – a terrible memory. I’ve therefore gotten into the habit of writing down the little things Mom tells me while she still can. I hope one day to be able to put all those treasured memories into a book for my children (not to mention, for myself).

Mom is so childlike now, and she has absolutely no filter. I don’t try to steer a conversation; I just follow along wherever her mind happens to have meandered at any given moment. Some of the things she tells me are hilarious. Sometimes, I am fascinated by her vivid recollections of the years of the Great Depression and how her family ate bountifully well off the land, despite great poverty. Other times, her recollections stab me straight through the heart – terrible family secrets that she never would have told me in years gone past. And sometimes, my breath catches in my throat as she offers me the greatest of gifts.

“I wasn’t a very good mother,” she said to me one day, in a small, unhappy voice from her hospital bed. I have never seen her look so tiny or so vulnerable. “I was so angry, then, at your father. But I shouldn’t have taken it out on you girls.”

I don’t even recall exactly what I said. I couldn’t tell her it wasn’t true. Mom could be wonderful when we were little but oh, there were some difficult times… Those were hard years for all of us. I sat down on the edge of the bed and took her hand in both of mine – I do remember that. And I must have said something to the effect of “It’s okay Mom. I know how hard those years must have been for you. And none of that matters anymore.”

And that’s the thing: none of it does matter anymore. And hearing those words meant everything to me.

They were the greatest gift my Mom has ever given me.

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com

I reside on the unceded and unsurrendered lands of the Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq and Peskotomuhkati Yik


Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

15 thoughts on “I Wasn’t a Good Mother”

  1. I think everyone who has kids has a woke moment where they suddenly realize they weren’t the parent they always thought they were. I came to that about a decade ago when I heard my son following the same script I did. Then, I say what my mom told me: “I did my best”…

    I also came to the realization that my mom wasn’t the best cook in the world… but, I’ll keep that one to myself…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a great lesson in humility for me to realize I had no idea what I was doing as a Mom, because I had intended to be awesome at it 🤷‍♀️ Now when it comes to cooking, the one thing I can say is I am NOT a good cook and I am completely uninspired in the kitchen. I would rather dig a ditch. But… my kids will try anything and they like almost everything, so, well, there’s that 🤓

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh bless you, Rosaliene 🙏💕 Yes, I think most of us do the best we can with where we are and what we know at the time. And if we are lucky, we find understanding and forgiveness, both for our parents and for ourselves…💕 I truly appreciate your constant encouragement and your lovely, honest, insightful responses…🙏🙏🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Caretaking, is not something we know how to do right off the bat, but, we can, train our selves to be, good at it, especially when our parents are, in need of our, looking after them, and we become, more, skilled in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This one made me weep, Patti. It’s great that you’re writing down your mother’s words. I so wish I’d done that.

    I tell myself that I was a “good enough” mother raising our girls. The fact that they are lovely, happy, bright, accomplished women leads me to believe that’s good enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing a wonderful story of you and your family!!.. one has to use the cards life has dealt us at the time, sometimes good, sometimes not so good and we learn as we go… as long as we try our best, while thinking of family also, there is no good or bad but a well done… 🙂

    Until we meet again…

    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

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