Sunday, September 21, 2014

Legacy of Love

I have purposely not spoken much about my mom's mom - my Grandmother.  There's little for me to say as there is hardly any relationship.

My mom is an only child and as my mom grew up, my grandmother did not know or understand how to be a mom.  Instead of nurturing her beautiful daughter, she was jealous of the love my Grandpa showered upon his daughter instead of her.  It was as if it was a competition that she was losing - so she took it out on my mom.  From day one, Mom was never good enough, pretty enough, bright enough - never worthy of the love a mom should give with abundance, versus always with CONDITION.  It was always conditional with her.

There was a fiery "falling out" (laced with words a mother should, under any circumstance, NEVER say to their daughter) when Mom was 16.  She moved out of her house.  Fortunately, she had a solid roommate, began dating my dad, and was married two years later.  Grandmother and "Grandpa Plum" got divorced in that time and Grandmother remarried shortly before we were born.

Grandmother and her new husband, Doug, lived a happy life together pursuing their many ambitions.  Both very determined, borderline obsessive personality people - they tackled many different passions with gusto - but never family.  We would usually visit 2-3 times a year - a Mother's Day visit, a pre-Christmas visit, and maybe another time.  They lived in Bend, so even though the visit was uncomfortable, we loved the drive to Central Oregon - and were always hopeful the winter visits would bring snow.  During two summers, Michele and I spent a week with them.  They tried hard to relate to our 10 and 11 year old selves, but it was awkward.  Spending time with someone you don't have a relationship or connection with tends to be that way. 

Five years ago, Doug passed away.  I'll find the link and add it to this post.  It was very sad, because Doug was my Grandmother's entire life.  In all their individual quirkiness, they totally got each other and figured out a way to find a happiness that you would almost think would be unattainable with the way Grandmother functioned.  As was expected, her health declined quickly following his death.  She is a very prideful, stubborn, independent woman and the one thing she always vowed was that she would never be put in to a "home" - never taken out of her own home....never nursed by anyone else....

But, circumstances led to just that conclusion last spring.  It was bad.  Despite someone "looking in on her", she had lost ability to handle daily functions well enough to sustain herself.  She was admitted to a hospital, not even sure where she was, who she was, who others were.  Her dementia had definitely escalated.  I've been told that there's often a personality shift when dementia gets bad enough, frequently turning the nicest person in the world to someone unrecognizably mean.  With Grandmother, the mean definitely has come out.  She's not only verbally abusive to those around her, but has lashed out physically to even the people she's known the longest.

My mom drove over to Bend last Tuesday to meet with her neurologist and get a handle on the next step of action.  As Grandmother's health has declined, Mom has found herself pushed out of the place of care for her by the lawyer Grandmother chose and the Power of Attorney Grandmother chose.  Apparently Grandmother wanted Mom to have NOTHING to do with her finances or legal affairs, so asked others to step in after Doug passed away and while she was still of sound mind.  It's been hard for my mom, but she's tried to do her best to "work as a team member" for Grandmother's welfare.  However, when conditions were as bleak as they were when Grandmother was living alone, it was very hard for her to feel her hands were tied to have something happen - it ultimately came down to a doctor's mandate that she was "not fit" to live by herself that forced their hands.

On Tuesday, Grandmother was again very volatile.  She barely recognized my mom.  And, on Tuesday, Mom was given more insight on the state of Grandmother's affairs - and that, "it was none of Mom's business" as Mom was not part of the will.  Let me be clear, this is not a money was a "run over by a Mac Truck" moment for Mom because it demonstrated in Grandmother's eyes that "my mom would never be worthy of her love".  We don't know who the inheritance is going to - we hope it's the loving caretaker who checked in on her for so many years while she lived independently as long as she could - but, it's not Mom.  Despite a lifetime (well, for sure, through all her adult years) of making the first move with phone calls, offering therapy time to heal injuries, choosing not to have the last word, doing her very best to ACT IN mom's still not good enough.

Can you imagine?  Maybe you can.  Maybe this is the hurt you've lived with.  John can.  It wasn't exactly the same story with him and his dad....but replace the anger & bitterness with passivity & guilt and you've got a pretty similar scenario.

But, here's the deal.  I CAN'T IMAGINE - and neither can my kids.  Because here's the golden truth, we can't relate because my mom - and John - have BROKEN THE LEGACY.  They have learned to love unconditionally.  They have had love poured into them by others and instead of it flowing out of a black hole caused by this dysfunctional parent, they have taken it, absorbed it, been filled with it and ACTIVELY POUR IT OUT TO OTHERS.  I'm crying as I write this as I am so proud of both of them and so thankful that these two people, half of the foursome of adults most significant in my life, have possessed the strength to overcome and rise absolutely victorious.  And, I'm so thankful for the people that did pour into them, that ended up cementing that hole.

Still, I ache for my mom.  She knows with all of her heart that this is not her fault.  That her mom was a broken person (my grandmother lost her older brother during her formative years and something just shattered that never got fixed- I go with that theory to somehow find a justification in the absurdity of it all).  But, it still hurts.  Grandmother is still alive, but not really mentally.  New drugs could emerge that might be able to spark lucidity, but none of us are banking on that.  She's actually began a food strike that may end up being one of her last stands of independence to go out under her own control.

I'll end this post with one of my favorite more recent pics of my mom - that just makes me smile everytime I see it because it was a silly precious moment shared with her daughter (I took the pic) and granddaughter - a moment my mom would have never shared with her mom....and most certainly I would not have shared with Grandmother.  I love you SO MUCH, Mom...thank you for beginning a new overflowing with love.

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