When it comes down to caring for an elderly parent or relative, why do we do the things that we do?
What is it that means we can do all those things that we’d really rather not with, if not a smile on our faces, at least a little grace and compassion?
Love. That’s what.
But despite what the card companies and every supermarket on the planet have been telling us since the last of the Christmas decorations came down, it ain’t all hearts and flowers.
As the song goes, “Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing” – but it can also be tough and at times painful.
The relationship that I have with my mother (like most parent/child relationships) is complicated. There are lots of things we don’t agree on. I now refuse to discuss religion or politics with her as our view points on both these subjects are poles apart. She frequently frustrates, annoys and upsets me. She has let me down (quite dramatically, on occasion) and I freely admit that I haven’t always liked her (I suspect that most of these feelings are probably mutual). But the one thing that has NEVER changed is the love that we have for each other.
And it’s the love that keeps us going, isn’t it?
Unlike having children, none of us CHOOSE to have parents, that’s just how the whole life thing works. My lack of biological children was fully my decision (although I am blessed with several, wonderful, Step/God/Grandchildren) and, call me naïve, but I never expected to find myself looking after another human being that relied so heavily on me for their very day to day existence.
I don’t HAVE to do this
As a daughter, changing soiled pads, cleaning up vomit, feeding, washing, dressing, getting up and putting to bed (often whilst being made to feel a disappointment or failure) was not what I signed up for. This isn’t my job or vocation, I’m not paid to do this. I don’t HAVE to do this, none of us do.
But we end up parenting our parents – because we love them…
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no saint – I was a pretty rubbish teenager – and for many years I harboured resentment towards mother for being, in my opinion, a pretty rubbish parent, responsible for many of the problems that I experienced during those tricksome teenage years. I still maintain that Philip Larkin got it right with his poem ‘This Be The Verse’. I only came to understand some of mum’s choices and actions when I started ‘parenting’ myself. And in those moments of realisation, I loved her even more, because loving and caring can be so damn hard sometimes.
It would be so much easier from my point of view (physically and emotionally) if I didn’t. But the fact is that I DO love my mother; I love her with all my heart and soul. I love her so much (even on those days when I don’t like her very much) that I am prepared to do all the crappy stuff. I am prepared, if not to put my life on hold, to at least try and create the space in it to accommodate her needs. Sometimes I feel like I am even prepared to endanger my sanity!
But then I am guessing that there have been times when she has done exactly the same for me…