Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Problem of Mother

My life is flowing past me like a bad movie back in the old days, when you went to a theater to see a movie with other people, and no one was texting.  And everyone just sat there, no matter how boring the movie was, how idiotically violent, just to see what the creature from the black lagoon looked like (not much).

My morning started with an obdurate computer. Windows open, the weather is freakishly warm again, and the computer doesn't like this natural world either, the moisture perhaps.  Waiting, waiting I realized the depth of my dependence on it.

There is a natural transition here - the word dependence - to The Problem of Mother.  Yesterday we spent two hours on phone conference with Mother, Good Sister, Gentle Eldercare Attorney, me and Eldest Brother, that's Tom, all trying to convince mother that she must go into assisted living.  She has dementia, has given lots and lots of money and stuff away to the evil scammers that pop up out of the dirt where there are supposed to be bodhissatvas.  Yet, all concerned were trying to reason with her.  She is very good at pretending she hears (oh no, no hearing aid) and deflecting decisions, has been doing it successfully all her life, and she's not about to make a major life decision now.  Someone is going to have to tell her, This is what we're going to do. But I can't convince them of that.  They want to believe she is reasonable.  So not only is she crazy, so are they. 

I feel that when it comes to crazy people, I know.  And it is a special dispensation. I have been crazy (a long time ago, quick to add), and in hospitals with other crazy people.  And somehow those experiences alienated me from the delusions shared by much of the world - or maybe that's what being crazy is, come to think of it - not sharing in the general delusion.
Why do these things with mothers make us all so insane? That is, why do we not see the reality before us, that Mother is very old (90) and not able to remember to lock the door or say no to people who try to take advantage of her.  (Dad is in skilled nursing, and likely to be in it the rest of his life; and not able to be part of decisions.)  Therefore, we must take over and move her somewhere where she is not in danger.  And it will be nice.

Well, just hone in on the question:  Why do we not see the reality before us?  Because it feels better not to.

As a kid you're pretty stuck with TV and games.  As an adult you can do that feeling better-denying reality-thing a lot of ways:  Ativan, gin, running breathlessly from one social event and one responsibility to another, hey, reading and blogging and painting - What's your favorite hedge against reality?  It's the curse of these much-larger-than-necessary human brains - they can be used to evade reality in a great many complicated ways.

Now, specifically onto mothers: all this took me back ten years to going through this kind of hell with my own mother and my siblings, who simply would not see the obvious truth of our mother's impairment, which included fecal incontinence.  Why?  I did not understand - I thought it was because they were drunk.  That was true, but something else is at work in these things.  And that is that the idea of a motherless world is quite frightening.  I found that out when my mother died.  Suddenly the sky was vacant.  My mother was not a kind, nurturing person.  Yet, or because of that, her death was a huge blow to me.  Maybe it's an energetic thing, that we are included in some sphere of home.  I doubt that it's all in your mind.

But it was and is a motherless world.  If you believe in or experience a caring God or universe, I'm sure it's easier to accept this.  Even so, the only thing you can count on is that the world changes constantly, you have nothing to stand on.  No security.  No assurance.

You can't count on anyone you love being here tomorrow, as much as I also hate to think it. You can't count on having the body or mind you have at this moment.  In fact, it is all a day older and more worn down today than it was yesterday, and this is true whether or not you're paying attention.  And the problem Mother is having is that she simply will not acknowledge the reality that she is old and forgetful and impaired.  My goodness.  Just like the rest of America, which was explored by a man looking for the fountain of youth.

Many spiritual people talk about a state of enlightenment in which we just dance with the flow, in which we have a quiet, consistent joy all the time.  If I find out where that state is located, I'll let you know. I think it has to do with understanding that nobody else is enlightened, either.

Meanwhile, I was struck with this lovely white-seeding grass (not photofixed).


  1. This resonates. Seven years of dementia for my grandmother, grand matriarch of the clan, and no one in our family would make The Decision because it felt like an abandonment, a betrayal. But then the burden of home care fall almost entirely on my mom. She's had no life of her own for this entire period and now that my grandmother is gone, she's adrift. It was the exact opposite of caring for a child where they become more and more capable.

    So many poems about grasses
    And yet none of them can touch one image
    Of the purpling grasses

    1. Thank you so much for writing. I came to the computer just now intending to read over the post and possibly delete it, but not now. (Also, it doesn't sound as crazy as I felt writing it.)

      I think you wrote the poem about my photograph? I am more touched by that.

    2. I did indeed. Eastern poems about grasses tend to make them a metaphor for the myriad and unwelcome thoughts, distractions of Mind. Which to me is an injustice to the thing itself, especially what you captured a breed I've never encountered, with such deep green and purple and that shock of white at the top. Remarkable.

    3. I have been interested lately in not pushing away the myriad thoughts, as well as not following their trail. It seems to me this is accepting my self. Or myself. And there is something there, I have been interested in Trungpa Rinpoche's thoughts about spiritual materialism, and that we need to not be seeking to be other than what we are. Quite recently I found myself appreciating his example of being a very mortal person with grave problems of self-discipline (that's my take on his drinking). This is me, to some degree in recovery from Japanese Zen.

  2. Leaving room in our practice for our whole selves, for imperfection; acceptance as well. Once there, then perhaps some housecleaning can take place, some furniture moved around. If we find some of the furniture is nailed to the floor, then I guess we work with the room the way it is.

    Japanese Zen can feel almost OCD-like in its precision regarding forms. This is part of what I like about Joko Beck, I understand she eschewed some of that, for instance wearing sweats, emphasis on "nothing special."

  3. A good analogy. My finding so far is that the kind of brain I have, probably inadequate to describe it as bipolar, is still with me. Maybe nailed to the floor. (But maybe I could set a groundhog to gnawing on the legs of the chair . . .? )

  4. I just wanted to add that this past February younger sister and I had to at first try to convince and then...basically force mom and dad into senior living. Their caregiver died and there was really no other choice-it's a long story. Dad died two weeks after he finally agreed to sell the house and move. Now mother said she had no idea why they just didn't do it earlier. It got to a point where sister and I had to stop the madness and just take over. She had power of attorney so -we used it. It was hell. But later it was heaven. I guess I just wanted to mention it as your post made me remember...

    1. Thank you for writing. It seems to always be a long story, from what I hear, that is finally ended by a crisis. We are working hard to stay de-stressed as this goes on.