I had a rough evening with Mom today. She's 94 and has some dementia, and I help her shower, and tonight, she wasn't very happy. She didn't like something I bought her, she was impatient with the fact that I've not connected with her physical therapist yet (we keep missing each other), she kept at me about helping her with a letter she's been writing, and she didn't like the towel I used to help her dry off.
On the mile-drive home from my parents' ALF, I felt the pressure of tears. I've been helping my parents (Dad is 91) for five years, and I've watched them gradually decline. Every month or so, they have a medical issue, or a further slip in mental acuity. Overall, I'm able to cope, but once in awhile...it hits me that these are not the parents I grew up with. Their lives have become very small. Their memories are short, their complaints are close to the surface. They are adamant that they can do everything they used to do, but they really can't. I am usually the bad guy, the one who sets the boundaries, says no, but behind the scenes, makes sure they are OK.
I am a caretaker. I never thought I'd be doing this, but here I am. I love my parents, and God sustains me. I'm not complaining. I'm just realizing that as we age and our awareness/abilities disappear, we are left with what seems to be simply the flesh. And the flesh is weak and tired and grumpy.
My parents were never like this before. They are dedicated Christians who raised four children and buried a son when he was 23. They worked in the church tirelessly all of their adult lives. They opened their home to friends and strangers alike. Any loving kindness I have ever extended, I learned from them.
The Mom I helped tonight is not the Mom who raised me and became a friend/spiritual guide to me. But, it's not her intention to be testy; her brain is simply deteriorating. It's wearing down and wearing out, and frequently, misfiring. This is what the flesh does. It was never meant to be permanent. It's here for awhile, and then it turns to dust. It helps to remember this.