Thursday, June 14, 2012
Every great now and then I hear a story that warms my heart. You know the type - the heartfelt tale of true love. Your typical feel good, chick flick, type story. The sort of movie that girls drag their boyfriends to (if they have one) and their mom (if they don't). My feel good tale to share falls into the Mom date category. Even if I had a man in my life I'd leave him at home for this one. Mom would be a much better date for this story line. Let me set the stage. Maria is 86 and suffering from dementia. She can't remember names, what the date or year is, where someone is if they left the room sixty seconds ago and when she is supposed to eat. Or wait, maybe she already ate? She doesn't know. If left to her own devices she would surely not survive very long. She can't remember to eat let alone remember the dangers that surround her and how they work - for instance, a stove, fireplace or hot faucet. She is at the mercy of other people taking care of her. Life is funny, isn't it? We come into life absolutely dependent. Without our parents caring for our every need we wouldn't last long past our initial entrance into this world. Someone takes care of everything. From feeding to changing to moving from one position to another - we are helpless. Then we grow, age and mature. We take on some of the responsibilites our caretaker once had. First we sit up, then crawl, walk and run. Over time we feed ourselves and the rest is history. We are self sufficient. The thought of someone having to change our diaper becomes revolting. Actually, the diaper itself is revolting, the wearing and having it changed by a third party is just plain humiliating. But then something happens along this journey called life. We start to go in reverse. Our capabilites become less. Other people must start helping us with basic functions we used to perform ourselves. It might start with a little help up the stairs. You've seen this I'm sure, just a young whipersnaper giving Grandma a shoulder to lean on as she manuevers up the steps into a restaurant. As time ticks by so do the rootamentary functions of life. Next the steps are completely unmanagable and the ramp is the only way to the restaurant Grandma could once walk into with ease. Slowly but surely she becomes more dependent on other people to help her get through daily life and accomplish the basics of daily living. And one day, she's back in diapers. And the saddest part? She can't even be humiliated because she knows she needs them and needs someone to change them. Life comes full circle. For Maria, star of this story, she can't rememeber enough to make it through life on her own. She needs a protector, a caretaker. And who better then a Mom - namely, her Mom. Maria's caretaker is her 104 year old Mother. Amazing, right? But wait, I'm just getting started. For the past sixty years the two have lived either together or across the street from each other. They have literally spent their lives together. When Maria was a young mother her marriage ended. Her Mother quit her job to care for Maria's two sons so Maria herself could work. At that time they lived across the street from one another. Now, for over fourteen years they have lived here in Sarasota. Maria suffers from artheritis and dementia. Her Mother takes a low dosage medication for high blood pressure and that's it. Talk about an amazing speciman! Most people aren't alive at 104 let alone taking care of a disabeled person and only popping one pill a day. Remarkable! What is even more amazing to me is the incredible love these two have for eachother. They share a love most people never experience this side of Heaven. They have walked through life together with more committment and dedication to each other then most people find in a marriage. How could I not think about my own Mother during this story? We aren't 86 and 104 but we have a bond that I dare you to try and break. She is my ally and my biggiest fan. She has a dedication that far exceeds anything I could ever ask for or dream of. If I were to be in Maria's shoes and be suffering from dementia I know my Mom would be right there taking care of me, too. I've already watched her take care of me now when I'm sick and suffering. The few times she has been away and I've been in a bad way her pain has been palpable. I could feel her sorrow on the other end of the phone. She's jumped in the car at a moments notice and driven across the state of Pennsylvania to be with me when I needed her. She is utterly faithful. So, when I read about Maria and her Mom I get it. I understand their bond, their relationship and their unfailing committment to each other. It may seem like Maria can only be a taker in the relationship given her physical state, but her Mother disagrees. Maria gives and loves. When her Mother leaves the room she can only be gone for a brief time. If she is gone too long Maria will go looking for her. She may have dementia but she couldn't forget her Mom. The memory might fade and body might fail but you can't make a person loose their ability love. When all else is gone, that remains. And that, my friend, is the moral of the story. You can't steal a person's love. And you can't break up the bond of a Mother and daughter. But I could have told you that already.