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As some of you know, I rarely talk about what goes on in my Alzheimer's Outreach group. But there's been a common thread running through it here lately that I think needs to be talked about. And it has to do with anger....
Now I could go into what has been discussed, but truthfully, that part doesn't matter. What IS important is the fact that I think each of us, at one time or another, has been furious...haven't we? Maybe we had to much on our plate...to many things to do. Maybe we didn't sleep well and were exhausted, which intensified everything and when something went wrong...BANG!....we exploded.
From my experience, I can tell you honestly that the one time I truly felt angry was when mom died. And no, I'm not referring to when she passed away physically, I'm talking about when I finally realized she wasn't my mom anymore.
You see, back in 1992 (or about 6 years into her illness), I discovered I had a lump in my breast. Now, if your a woman, I'm sure I don't need to tell you there are few things more frightening than that. You immediately assume you have cancer. You become so scared you don't know what to do. Your mind races then sputters with questions. You look for guidance...comfort...a someone who'll convince you everything will be alright. A person whose lap you can crawl up on and feel safe. In otherwords...you need your mom. And I was no different.
Yes, on the outside, I technically looked like a competent adult. I took all the right steps. I consulted my doctor and went in for a mam. But, as we all know, mammograms are not instantaneous. In some cases you get the results in a very short time. In my case, it would be 24 hours...24 of the longest hours of my life.
Now don't get me wrong, it's not that I didn't have support during this time. I did. Almost every family member and friend called to assure me it would be "ok". And yes, I really did try to believe them...but I couldn't. Why? Because they weren't the one I needed to hear it from. The only person who possessed that power of persuasion was mom. Mom...whom I'd always depended on. Mom...the one person who would privately put aside her own worries about my health and convinced me I'd be fine.
So...off I went. Straight to the nursing home where I poured everything out to my rock. I told her my fears...how scared I was...how confused. I said..."Mom, tell me it will be 'ok'...that come tomorrow I'm going to hear it's benign and there's nothing to worry about".
Honestly, I have to say I fully expected her to be mom. To respond with..."Oh baby, you're gonna be fine." I expected...craved...needed desperately to hear something...some words of wisdom. But that's not what I got. No, mom didn't re-emerge. No, her eyes didn't fill with concern, nor did her arms reach out to sweep me up into a hug. The person who had been my rock simply looked at me with unseeing eyes and replied..."Oh... well....", before getting up and walking away.
I don't believe there is anything more devastating to a child, than to see her parent turn away. I had come seeking solace...comfort...courage...and what I got was a stranger who had disregarded my most intimate fears. I just couldn't comprehend how she could do this to me....and that's when the anger began. Anger as hot as lava...rage so consuming I wanted to shout at her...shake her out of this uncaring, self absorbing world she lived in and say..."when is it going to be MY turn? When are you going to be there for ME?" A childish response, I know. And even worse, I refused to let go of that anger for days.
In fact, I carried it with me throughout everything during that time. The results, which turned out to be benign, the surgery I opted for, to have it removed anyway, and the days I spent recuperating. It's what kept me going. It's what gave me comfort because I had decided that, if she couldn't be there for me, then I wouldn't be there for her. If she wanted to be that selfish, then so could I. I wouldn't worry about her in the nursing home...I'd just take care of myself.
Looking back, all I can say is..."Oh, my, how we respond when our child heart is broken....(sigh)
Thankfully, once I calmed down I was able to see the anger it for what it was. No, it wasn't mom who I railed at, but rather, the disease. I knew then as I know now, had mom been able to understand, it would have been different. She would have been what I needed her to be...gave me the courage that I lacked. But, by then, it was beyond her ability to do so. I had come seeking something she couldn't give anymore...a part of her this disease had killed.
So that's where my anger came from. That 'slapped me in the face' type of realization that comes from knowing there would be many times throughout my life when I would have to face things alone. That never again would I be allowed to fall back on moms support. And whatever hand I was dealt during this lifetime, I'd have to deal with it, without her.
So...that's why I let it go. I couldn't be angry at her for things she couldn't help...but I could be angry with the disease who had robbed me of my beloved mom.
Since then, I now know there were many times I was angry with this disease...just not so overwhelmingly so. In fact, I think we get angry at every stage. It's just that after a while, we get rather numbed to the fact. We don't notice it as much, don't hurt quite as badly...we just learn to deal with it as we have everything else, and then let it go. Does that make sense to you? Because to me, I think that's where the anger came from. All the 'letting goes". All the things they lose...all the anger we feel at seeing them decline and not have the ability to stop it.
Yes, this disease takes many things from us. It robs spouses of their golden years together...it turns parents into strangers. It pulls the rug out from each of us at one time or another, and we get angry. But know what? Sometimes that's ok, because the flipside of anger can be determination.
I know for myself that each time this disease angered me, I became more determined. I'd take it, turn it around and make it something productive. It created in me, a determination to focus on her needs and what was important to her. And in the end, all these letting goes actually uncovered what mattered most. Not what we lost, her and I, but what we gained....a love that could be bent, but never broken!
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