Looking back six Decembers ago to the time my mom entered her assisted living facility is difficult. How could I allow her to go there versus living with my family? How could I “put” her there at one of the happiest times of the year? The daughter guilt was immense. I was torn between trying to keep her safe versus trying to keep her independent as long as possible. Even though her doctor advised us that this was the best thing for her… it felt like a failure to me. I couldn’t make everyone happy. If she moved in with my family it changed the dynamics of my teenage and preteen daughters. Not to mention she complained about how noisy and busy my household was with the girls and their friends. If I let her stay at her home with a caregiver she would just drive them away with her insistence that she didn’t need their “help.” My husband was, and is, the most patient man in the world as he helped me work through each hurdle. My Alzheimer’s support group also helped tremendously.
It took me two years to clear out my mom’s home because the guilt was tremendous. Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of was gut wrenching. Most of the items were her mementos yet when I showed them to my mom she didn’t remember them. Was I giving away a family treasure? What is the story of the wooden rolling pin that I think she told me was made by one of my great grandfathers? What to do with a box of slides and pictures of her years in the Air Force and traveling and working in Europe? Even now I have the box and have tried to interest her in looking at them. She doesn’t remember much of that time and what she does remember sometimes frustrates her.
Today I still feel the daughter guilt, but it is tempered with acceptance of all the things I could not and cannot change. I feel twinges of sorrow when she doesn’t recognize the family heirloom ornaments on the tree. I feel sad that she can’t show me how to make her amazing candied yams for our Christmas dinner. However, I’m choosing to reflect on all the blessings I do have with my mom. Looking at her holding her great granddaughter, and talking to her grandchildren, remind me that this season in all our lives will pass before we know it, and that we need to cherish the time we do have together.