Alien World of Assisted Living

Visiting my mom at her assisted living facility can feel like crash landing a spaceship on a new planet. The terrain is different and has all sorts of new fauna to be careful of.

While shopping at a thrift store with my mom today, I walked ahead of her at the checkout line and noticed she was going the wrong way. I went to assist and told her to turn around and didn’t realize this was not something she’s used to doing. She slipped and fell but thankfully very slowly and gracefully so she was not hurt. It was at that moment I realized how much of a different role I need to play with my mom and how much more careful I need to be around her. Something I take for granted as simply being able to turn around and have balance is something she does not have with her MS. My mom puts on a very brave face when I’m around and will insist on going places to make me happy but I see the struggle as she walks. She has a hard time admitting her feelings and she’ll say she is fine when I can clearly see she’s not.

Like an offworlder, I have to learn to navigate this new land. I admire that she wants to be brave and says that she is fine but obviously it is a struggle for her- and I wish sometimes we could talk about it. I’m not sure if this is for her benefit or for mine.

There is no Universal translator for MS. All I can do is observe and make decisions based on these observations.

Today was a long day yet full of great experiences. My mom and I ate at a little Cuban restaurant that was surprisingly delicious. We then drove around a tiny island looking at big yachts and made jokes. We shopped at a local thrift store benefiting cancer research and I bought my mom some new clothes and books. But the best part of the day was when a song came on the loudspeaker- an oldie my mom actually knew. She started singing and remarked how she loved the song- I haven’t seen her light up like that in a while.

Actually no. I take that back. She does light up other times. She lights up every time she sees me and tells me how beautiful I am and how I’m her daughter and will introduce me dozens of times to the same people. After a full day, I tell my mom is time for me to go and I’ll be back in the morning. My mom reminds she doesn’t get to see me often and looks sad. So I linger, unsure of what else we can do… Guilt arrows begin to launch their attack! Then I feel guilty about feeling guilty. I should be happy to be seeing my mom all day- why am I such in a rush to leave? Guilt for being guilty about being guilty. Now isn’t that awful?

And while all this emotion floods my body, I wonder if all my mom is thinking is “oh look my daughter’s here”. My mind is racing, searching to find things for us to do and talk about about, and mom’s simply happy seeing me. Perhaps visiting this strange world, all I do need to do is sit and breath.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Kathy Moyer says:

    Oh Liz I know how you feel. Now you are taking on the parent roll with your mom but trying not to treat her like a child. It’s a balancing act of protecting your self as well as giving your mom the respect and attention she needs. She can brag on you all day but talking about her self and what she is going through is like be on Mars. It’s alien to both of you (uncomfortable ) and you probably feel if you initiate that conversation you will get shot down immediately. I think you are handling things just right for now and just spending time with her and enjoying each other’s company is all you need do for now. Spend as much time with her as you can and you’ll have no regrets. Make sure you take care of Liz in this process and set your limits and boundaries. I will be thinking about you and your mom and pray that everything will work out in the end. Have faith in yourself and more importantly have faith in your mom. Take good care. Call me when you get back and we’ll do lunch.

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