Some of us, I’m certain, have, or had, mothers or elderly relatives that screamed and yelled and expressed their feelings at us or at their circumstances without holding back. You certainly knew how they felt. Others remained completely stoic, never showing intense emotions. Mom is the latter.
As I wrote yesterday, my 96 year-old Mom neither cries nor curses. It just isn’t done. She laughs, even in what I consider strange situations, but cry—never. I’m not certain if that was the way young women were brought up during the Depression. You just gutted it up, didn’t complain and went on about your business. No crying. Not in baseball, not in life.
When my father died of a heart attack, leaving Mom to raise four of us kids alone and without life insurance, I never saw her shed a single tear. It just wasn’t done. She remained completely stoic. Since then, she has admitted to huge bouts of nearly suicidal depression, but she never told anyone. I didn’t understand it at all.
By the same token, when she turned 80, a friend convinced me we should have a huge party for her. Bring in all her friends, make posters with pictures of the past, have great emotional festivities. Mom was more than embarrassed, she was mortified. She didn’t like it one little bit. Way too much emotion for her.
Does she feel pain and hurt under that crusty exterior? I would never have suspected it, but she does. I slipped and nearly fell coming out of the trailer and said “I’m getting as clumsy as you!” She didn’t say anything then, but a day or so later she said something that proved she had been hurt by the comment.
Sister Sara, who just read one of my Blogs, called to ask if Mom was reading them. I said absolutely not. Would she laugh if she read them? Are they humorous to her? Am I making fun of her clothing or her antics or her attitudes? Or would my comments wound her deeply? Probably they would hurt, hence I am not going to read my Blogs to her. They are for me, not for her.
I find that sharing my feelings with those of you out there who are also facing the problems of taking care of elderly relatives is a huge release for me. To be able to laugh about the sometimes overwhelming feelings of guilt, resentment and even anger involved with taking care of a tottering, stumbling mother is an enormous relief. It allows me to vent. I don’t want to hurt her by telling her how I feel, but I can share my feelings with others in the same situation.
All my life I have been an obedient, respectful, subservient daughter. Now, when she is no longer the strong, commanding presence of my youth, I am required to feed her, bathe her, take her to the bathroom, clean up after her and carry out the most intimate and embarrassing duties for her. Does she resent it? Probably. Do I? Definitely.
My beautiful and thoughtful sister-in-law Cindy sent a Ted Talks video by a young woman named Rachel Brathen, a Yoga instructor from Aruba. Rachel suggested that using Social Media to tell our truth would change the world. “Being vulnerable is how we heal,” she said. “Talking about your pain is relieving it—and sharing your story is letting it go.”
My question, though, is what happens if my truth hurts my mother? Should I quit writing about her for fear she will read the Blogs as my sister suggests? Or do I write with greater care, not fully expressing my feelings, in case someone reads them to her? Many people admire and respect her for her longevity and courage. So do I. But my admiration and respect is wrapped up with a lot of other feelings that have surfaced as our relationship has changed.
Social Media can hurt and wound deeply when we “tell the truth.” The anonymity of the Internet allows us to say things we would never, ever say to someone’s face. I would certainly never insult my mother by telling her I think her clothes look like a rag-pickers. What would happen if she read my Blog? Or learn that hundreds of you out there know that is what I think?
So should I remain stoic, like my mother, and keep all my resentments inside? Or continue to write out my feelings in semi-humorous, emotional Blogs? Scary thoughts, either way!