The Strength of a MotherThe relationship I have with my 'Mama' is the most complicated relationship I have with anyone.
She is warmth, love, hugs and chocolate chip cookies. She is stubborn, critical, loud and unyielding.
When I was a kid, my softball team was playing a game and a storm blew in. I was up to bat. My mom stopped the game by running onto the field to where I stood at home plate to remove my metal hair clip. She didn't want me to get struck by lightning.
I remember many occasions from my childhood when she just embarrassed the pants off of me, especially since I consider myself to be a quiet person.
My Mom was always heard. She insisted on it.
If she was scolding one of us, she would yell for a while. Then, hours later, you could still hear her muttering under her breath about it while making dinner. Depending on the day, I was either mortified, amused or just in complete awe of her.
When I was a teenager, my Mama would never let me out of the house looking a certain way. She was always put together and made note of her kids doing the same. I would primp and preen in front of the mirror for hours and finally come out, only to have her say, "Aren't you going to put on any makeup?" or "Oh! Are you done with your hair?".
Yet, with that same voice, she has proven time and again that she will always stand up for me and my siblings when someone is trying to serve up some injustice our way.
She passes this same love on to her grandchildren. She is 'MeMaw' to the next generation and her voice, as loud as ever, defends and loves and protects.
She insists on it.
Yes, she was the big voice in my life. Loving me, nagging me, defending me. Being my Mama.
About three years ago, the doctors diagnosed my mom with dementia. She had undergone some back surgeries and had trouble with side effects from the anaesthesia. After a doctor did some tests, he determined that she was in the beginning stages of this disease that will eventually steal her away from us.
And I'm not ready.
Thank God it's slow progressing, yet we've all noticed changes in her; most noticeably how quiet she has become.
My Mama, with her loud voice, unrelenting chatter and daily prying phone calls, is growing silent.
And I miss her. And her voice. I'm still grateful to have her, but yes. She has changed.
The other day, she accidentally Skyped me from her computer. I could hear her before I could see her, calling for my dad, yelling that I was trying to Skype her. I just died laughing, trying to explain to her that she in fact had pushed the button to call me.
When I saw her face pop up on my computer, I died laughing again. She looked a complete mess. My mom, the same person who goes to the beauty shop every week to get her hair done and is always put together, had a flattened 'do' desperately in need of a fix.
I couldn't help myself. I just looked at her and said, "Mama, what is going on with your hair?"
She said she thought it was time for a perm. I laughed and said it most certainly was. To have the tables turned in this instance was a bit liberating and funny to boot.
I wonder if she notices the changes in herself. Does she know she's being quiet? Does her mind go somewhere else during the silences? Is there confusion or blankness? These are the thoughts that plague my mind.
This disease and the acceptance of it is hard. I hope I can be as strong as she needs me to be. Perhaps just loving her through this stage of life, like she loved me through all of mine, is the most important thing I can do for her.
There's a lot I don't know, but I do know this: dementia may silence my Mother, but she will still be heard. After all, I have the same tool that she used to help each one of us know how much she cared: my voice. And I will use it to speak for her.
Everyone around her will continue to hear what she has to say. I insist on it.
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