Over Christmas, we visited with my family, a couple states away. The situation with my mother’s health meant that even my youngest brother and his wife, who live a couple thousand miles away, came; I hadn’t seen that sister-in-law since their wedding.
Mom couldn’t be with us, which was sad. But we went to see her at the nursing home. Molly and I had seen her this past summer, and she had declined considerably since then. My kids hadn’t seen her in even that ‘intermediate stage’ of her decline, and so it was quite shocking for them to see her. It was quite an emotionally trying thing for a couple of them, and also my youngest brother, who had to step out of the room to regain their composure. Pretty rough stuff.
Later on, my siblings, and Dad and I, had a Family Meeting to discuss Mom’s care regime, and Do-Not-Resuscitate orders, and all that happy stuff. Life has certainly gotten ‘interesting’.
As the meeting wound down, the seven of us siblings turned to reminiscing about Mom and the impact she’s had on our lives. And I said that, when I was in the room with her, all I could think of to say was “Thank you.” That she had come into my life to be a mother to me when my ‘first mother’ had gone away. And then my sister (my step-sister, from Mom’s first marriage) said an amazing thing, that hadn’t occurred to me before.
She was talking about their life after Mom’s divorce, and how their Grandma (Mom’s mother, who became my grandmother in the fullness of time) virtually took them in, and was their ‘surrogate mother’, because their mom had to work to support them, and wasn’t very present in their lives. Then she pointed to Dad; “until he married her. Then we got our mom back.”
And that just floored me. I was well aware of the impact of their marriage on my own life, and how relieved I’d been to have a mom again. But I’d never really ‘lost’ my Dad. For my step-sibs, though, Mom and Dad’s marriage got them TWO parents – it got them a ‘new dad’, but it also got them their mom back. And that had never occurred to me. It also helped me to understand, on a deeper level, the sense of gratitude that my sisters have toward Dad.
Since my mom has been in her decline, we’ve had a couple of these conversations, in which we’ve talked more openly and deeply than we ever have. We’ve never talked terribly much about our respective lives Before Mom and Dad’s Marriage – it just didn’t seem to be relevant to the life we had together – so this was a pretty significant topic of conversation.
It’s hard to process all my thoughts on this situation. The prospect of losing my mom is terribly sad, and it seems clear that that will likely happen sooner rather than later. But, it is also bringing us siblings closer together in the process.
On another level, it’s just the next stage of our lives, and one that I can count myself fortunate to have not gotten to until my early 50s. We had our own growing up and young adulthood; college; getting a job; getting married and having kids, etc, etc. And now, our age-peers’ kids are getting married and having kids of their own.
And our parents are dying. It doesn’t make it any easier to live through my own parents’ decline and eventual death, but it does help to understand that this is something that happens in everyone's life, and isn't just a special 'insult' from the Universe, directed at me. . .