As I matured, one of my biggest fears was that I would turn into my mother, who I experienced during my teen years as an angry, critical person, who was never satisfied with me. "Why can't you bake gingerbread cookies like Lil's daughter?" my mother once asked me; at 13, I just shrugged.
Now it's 2010, I am 67 and my mother is 94. When she developed mild dementia at age 90 and could no longer live alone in Florida, we got help. Then the money ran out. Now she lives with me, her oldest daughter. My husband who watched his father detoriate in a nursing home from Parkinson's disease, agrees that having her here is the right thing to do -- but not the easiest.
The adjustment included anger and crying -- Mom and I -- but we got through it. Now, almost a year later, I have come to a hard-to-admit realization: I am my mother's daughter, and not just by physical resemblance.
It is not my father's sense of humor I inherited, it's hers. She is still quick with a quip, takes teasing fairly well, and we laugh together about getting older. My mother can be compassionate and supportive. I try to mimic her sense of style, but not her sense of entitlement, that's not me. It's been challenging, but I have found a new respect for my feisty little Mom, and I like and admire the old woman she has become.
As she was getting ready for bed the other night she looked up at me and said, "Did you know you are a pretty woman?" "Not pretty, Mom," I replied, "cute, I've never considered myself pretty."
"Well, you should," my mother replied, "and it should give you confidence as you move about in the world. It's important to recognize who you are. "OK, Mom," I replied, wondering to myself what messages I had incorporated earlier in my life that made me feel like I didn't measure up to her expectations, not even when I became a mother myself. "I was hoping for a little girl," my mother replied when I called to announce the birth of my first, and as it turns out, only child, a little boy.
Did I imagine those words? It's been 41 years sinced my son was born -- was there a context surrounding them that I've forgotten? Why did I grow up thinking I was so much less, when my mother now tells me that I am so much more?
Now our roles are somewhat reversed, so I guess I will never know -- but that's okay. Mom is showing me how to get through old age, and I am doing my best. And if Mom ever asks for gingerbread cookies, I know where to get the best cookies in town!