This past week I experienced one of the most profound and healing experiences I have ever had and I wanted to share it……
Since I was a child I’ve struggled with my relationship to my mother. Early in my life I just kind of “gave up” on including her in the details of my life because she could never remember them. I’m not talking about just a detail here and there- I’m talking about stuff that was a really big deal to me… like….
What my interests were….
What kind of food I liked….
What my friends names were…
What I majored in for college….
What my profession was….
I’m also not referring to her now twilight years – I’m talking about from the time I was very very young. I could have a heart felt, amazing conversation with her and share my deepest secrets or desires… only to refer to the conversation at a later date and her response was a blank look or to say “You never told me that before.”
It did not seem to matter how many times I told her, what it was, or how much time passed… she just could not seem to retain things about me. Naturally I began to take it personally. I made up that I was not important enough for her to remember, and this hurt me to no end.
In my adult years I began to realize how frustrated I would become when she would try to tell me stories or explain things to me…
I felt like everything was so vague with her… like if she were sharing an experience she had I would have to ask a million questions to try to eek out the details like the who, what ,why ,where of everything… it’s like she could not seem to give “context” for the story she was trying to deliver and I would get down on my myself because often time it would exasperate me and I know that on several occasions I hurt her feelings. We had a joke in my family that if she wanted to express herself about a topic she was interested in she would send us a book or a CD on the topic and I’d think… “why can’t she just tell me? I don’t want to read a whole book to find out what she’s interested in!” – I mean, every so often it was fine but it was all the time.
Taking her to Wickford Main Street Christmas shopping every year was like a new experience every time…
“Oh, this is a nice town.. why haven’t you taken me here before?”
Sometimes I wanted to stab my eyes out with an ice pick. I’d just calmly let her know that we’d been here every year for the last ten and she’d say..
“Oh, no! I would remember being here before if you’d taken me here…”
This past week we finished our “testing” at the Hallowell Center in Sudbury. I’d recently asked her to go for an evaluation after my own diagnosis for Adult ADHD and because it’s hereditary I thought… well, maybe this is what the issue is.
What we discovered astounded me.
I’d known the vague story she’d told me in passing once about the fact that she’d had an aneurysm early in life (Age 25) several years before I was born. All she’d conveyed is that it happened, and she was lucky to be alive. Because she was a Catholic Nun before meeting and marrying my father, she related the event to ” A Miracle from God” and Indeed- I agreed. She’d made it seem like it had never impacted her other than five weeks of bed rest and that she was then given a clean bill of health.
The evaluation at The Hallowell Center told another story entirely.
My Mother I learned, sustained substantial damage to the frontal lobe of her brain which is the portion that controls executive functioning, memory, spacial relations, self reflection and many social functioning capabilities such as recognizing patterns in relationships, places, and people.
In addition to her inability to apply concepts of business, organization, filing etc, she also had challenges with any memory that did not pertain to task oriented activities such as cleaning the house, or making a sandwich. This meant that any communication that was delivered to my mother that did not somehow involve her would not “stick” and for memories that did involve her- although she could remember a few things about the moment or event- she could not retain how it applied or generate an insight in order to then “learn” from previous mistakes or successes. The reason it felt like ground hog day over and over again when I was with my mom – is because it was!
The most fascinating aspect to this discovery is that it damaged her ability to actually even realize that she had any kind of issue. Her ability to relate in context to who she was before the stoke and who she was after was damaged making it almost impossible for her to realize why her symptoms were so frustrating to those around her or for her to even realize that she had any!
As we learned more – we had many moments of ah-has!
“So this is why my daughter gets so frustrated with me?” she would ask the Dr.
The day before she left we went out to lunch and she asked me:
“What was it like to grow up as my child and feel like I was unable to remember anything about you?”
I laughed and cried as I told her a few things…
As we got into the car – she thanked me and told me that it was good for her to know – if even in this moment… even though she will likely leave, go home, and possibly forget the details of the conversation, and perhaps that we ever even had one. We both laughed our guts out.
My revelation is this:
All I have with my Mother is THIS VERY MOMENT, so enjoy it… share big, and love her just the way she is.
This realization makes the “present” moment an even a greater GIFT in my life… it’s all we ever really have anyway.