My Mommy

Submitted into Contest #255 in response to: Write a story about someone finding acceptance.... view prompt

17 comments

Fiction

April 30, 2023

“What brings you here today? It’s been quite a while since the last time we met.”

“I miss my mom,” I blurted out, cutting right to the chase while sitting down tentatively. 

“Oh, Ruth…” a rustle of papers as Dr. Jordan flipped back through her notes. “I didn’t realize…”

“No,” I quickly clarified. “She’s okay. I mean, she’s not okay, but she’s still here.”

She’s still here, I thought to myself. But was she really? The image of her being brought home from rehab via ambulette flashed before my eyes. The men carried the stretcher into the house while I stood in the background fighting a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. The woman strapped on looked more like my grandmother than my mother, her hair brushed back in a style not hers. I felt sick. What had happened to her?

“Tell me about that, Ruth.”  My therapist flipped to a fresh page and poised her pen over it.

Tell her about it? Which part? The part where I hadn’t visited her for months on end? Was I too frightened to see the deterioration? Too selfish to miss work during our busiest time of year?  Covid had spread like wildfire through her wing of the hospital. Was that a valid reason for not visiting or a convenient excuse?

Dr. Jordan would tell me everything was going to be just fine and that my mother was going to regain her strength.  She would reassure me that I was not the world’s worst daughter. 

I looked at my therapist who looked back at me over her glasses. The questions and scenarios ran all over each other competing for attention negating each other into silence. I simply had no words.

***

May 20, 2023

“I had to lock myself in the bathroom to cry my eyes out. She called me out on that when I went back into the bedroom.”

“What did she say to you, Ruth?” Dr. Jordan asked me as she crossed her legs at the ankle.

“Why are you crying, little girl?” I did my best to imitate my mother’s voice, the emotion of the memory threatening the dam to burst yet again. I laughed a shaky laugh to chase away the sadness.

“Why were you crying?” Dr. Jordan pursued my mother’s question, putting me on the spot to pinpoint a range of emotion.

Why? 

“Go away, I don’t like you,” rang in my ears as if I were in her bedroom at that very moment. 

I didn’t blame her, didn’t take it personally. It wasn’t me she disliked but rather her situation. Who wanted to helplessly allow others to take care of their basic needs? Where was the dignity in being washed and changed into a clean diaper? It was more than I could bear for myself or for her.

I sat on that chair, that old familiar but yet uncomfortable beige chair, lost in thought.

***

June 4, 2023

“Yesterday was one of the scariest days of my life.”

“Tell me about it.”

For once I was ready to speak, ready to spill my guts to my therapist. I needed to unload.

“I tried to force my mother out of bed. I told her repeatedly you can do this, rah, rah, rah.  I was her cheerleader. She begged me to leave her alone, but I refused to give up. She didn’t want to disappoint me, so she slowly sat up on the edge of the bed with my encouragement.”

“That’s wonderful, Ruth.”

“I thought so at first, but she was so weak she fainted. Her eyes rolled back in her head, and she went limp, falling backwards on the bed while I screamed in panic. I begged her no, no, no, wake up, wake up, wake up while she slid off the bed and onto the floor in a heap.”

“What did you do?”

“I screamed for my stepfather to come in, and he called 911. I sat on the floor with her holding her upright until the paramedics got there.”

“Thank goodness she was alright. That must have been very scary for you, Ruth.”

“It was all my fault. I’ll never push her like that again.”

“It wasn’t your fault. You had the best of intentions.”

“I thought it was the end happening right in front of me. It was terrifying. All I could think of was no, not now, not here, not on my watch.” I was sure I had lost her.

Again I wondered why I had restarted my visits with Dr. Jordan. What was it that I was seeking? My mother wasn’t getting her strength back as I had hoped. Perhaps I needed the coping skills to get through the unimaginable yet inevitable next chapter.

***

July 16, 2023

“We finally got her the lift. I despise it beyond words.”

“Why is that, Ruth?”

“It helps us get her out of the bed and into the wheelchair so at least she’s not bedbound all day. But there’s this moment where she’s swinging in midair with her arms and legs dangling all over the place until she’s lowered into her chair. It’s heartbreaking.”

“It’s a means to an end, Ruth. It’s helpful.”

“Yeah, but to see her screaming like…” I wanted to say like a wild animal, but I couldn’t bring myself to make that comparison. She deserved more respect than that. 

We sat quietly.  Dr. Jordan allowed me to process my thoughts and share what I was able to. The silence was comforting. The tears had started to dry up, the constant nausea had lessened over time. 

My mother wasn’t coming back.

***

August 18, 2023

“We celebrated my mom’s birthday the other day,” I reported to my therapist.

“How nice! Did you enjoy it?”

“I did. She seemed to have a wonderful day.” I thought back to the afternoon spent on her sunny deck, the lively conversation reminiscent of earlier days.

“Ruth, I’m so happy to hear that.”

“I mean she was completely confused with her facts slip sliding all over the place. She knew me then didn’t know me. Was I her mother, her daughter?”

“How did that make you feel?”

“I’ve gotten used to it. I suppose you can get used to anything as it becomes the new normal. She smiled a lot during lunch and enjoyed her birthday cake. We had a few laughs while she blew out the candles.”

“So why do you look so sad?”

“I’m not. Not really. It was a good day filled with special moments.”

I thought back to kissing her on the cheek when I said goodbye. She told me to call her when I got home, which was exactly what my mother had always said before the nightmare started. It was a while since I had that anchor and felt secure. I was cared for. I mattered. I wasn’t floating in the abyss all alone.

As I had opened the front door feeling like a daughter again, I heard in the background, “Who was that lady?” 

Stepping through the door I had let out a small sigh, but surprisingly I didn’t cry.

June 19, 2024 14:08

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17 comments

Helen A Smith
07:46 Jun 27, 2024

So hard to accept the physical and mental changes in our mothers and remember how they looked after us. I liked the involvement of the therapist as a way to introduce more of the MC’s experience and getting to see her open up more. Sad and meaningful story where you showed how acceptance evolved. Heartbreaking really. Poignant ending.

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Hannah Lynn
16:02 Jun 27, 2024

Thanks for reading, Helen. Definitely a tough time of life for those caring for their elderly parents. We know our parents are going to age but it's still almost shocking when it happens.

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Helen A Smith
16:09 Jun 27, 2024

I agree. It’s both distressing and shocking though we try not to show it.

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Karen Hope
13:06 Jun 24, 2024

Sad and lovely story. Great perspective telling it through visits to the therapist, Dr. Jordan’s questions and feedback are helpful as the story of Ruth’s mother unfolds. Well done.

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Hannah Lynn
02:38 Jun 25, 2024

Thanks, Karen! Yes, using the therapist visits really helped organize Ruth’s journey. It was tough to write. Thanks for reading!

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20:19 Jun 23, 2024

A tough story well told.

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Hannah Lynn
21:52 Jun 23, 2024

Thanks so much, Melissa!

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Milly Orie
13:44 Jun 23, 2024

I loved the creative way of telling the story through visits to a therapist. We watch the progression of Ruth’s mother’s illness, grieve with her, appreciate the little things with her. Well written!

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Hannah Lynn
16:00 Jun 23, 2024

Thanks so much, Milly! I had it written as journal entries at first but it was falling flat. Ruth really needed the push by the therapist to get into the feelings, etc. I almost wrote it through the therapist's perspective as watching Ruth go through this but that didn't work either. I appreciate the feedback! :)

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Elisa Welch
17:03 Jun 22, 2024

I can only say thank you for telling this story. I took care of my grandmother for the last year of her life, and she also had dementia. She never once knew me that whole year, I was always "that girl". Every word you wrote was so familiar, and I recognize the pain, and the acceptance that comes with time. Beautiful, just beautiful. <3

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Hannah Lynn
17:39 Jun 22, 2024

Elisa, sorry to hear you went through this with your grandmother. It is truly heartbreaking. I appreciate your kind words and taking the time to read my story! :)

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Trudy Jas
19:00 Jun 19, 2024

Tough story, Hannah. Heart breaking. Dementia is often harder on the family than the one with the diagnosis. At which point we can only hope that the end be swift.

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Hannah Lynn
19:23 Jun 19, 2024

That’s so sad 😞 😭

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Mary Bendickson
18:15 Jun 19, 2024

Tagged as fiction but this happens everywhere.😞

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Hannah Lynn
18:36 Jun 19, 2024

Yes I switched it back and forth from fiction to nonfiction. Thanks for reading!

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Alexis Araneta
17:25 Jun 19, 2024

Oh, Hannah ! What a poignant tale about a devastating disease. The descriptions here were beyond impeccable. I truly feel sorry for Ruth. Lovely work !

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Hannah Lynn
17:42 Jun 19, 2024

Aww thanks Alexis! What happens to the elderly is just so heartbreaking. :(

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