Mother Love

My Mother, I’ve posted briefly about her before.

She doesn’t know about this blog and she doesn’t use the internet. Since reading the prompt I’ve been turning over in my mind whether I should write this post. I recognise that being (relatively) anonymous it affords me freedom.  I know my mother would be mortified if she ever read this post, for several reasons, that I think will become apparent. Ultimately, I decided this is my blog and my space and while it is her reality, it is also very much mine.

My mother and I have always had a complicated relationship, I won’t go into detail because this is only my point of view, I will sum of it up by saying I am glass half full and she is more glass half empty.

In the last couple of years she’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t talk about it and doesn’t want anyone to know. She has never been a confident person and always anxious. The illness impacts on her memory and so further erodes her confidence. Think for a moment how much you rely on the clarity of your memory and how fundamental it is.

She has become more anxious and this manifests itself in constant checking. She checks for her handbag, then she checks for her glasses and then again and then again. She presents a problem, you give her solution and she presents it again and again. I find it really stressful.  It creates a barrier in her relationship with my son. It invariably goes the same way, he has a very clear speaking voice, but, as he speaks she speaks over the top of his words “what’s he saying?” anxious she won’t understand.  He tells her about a toy and she responds with “you are gorgeous”. She becomes confused and more anxious, I explain what he has said. He tries again and she’ll say “I tell all my friends how gorgeous you are”.  He doesn’t understand. She worries constantly that he will hurt himself. Which I find claustrophobic.

My parents live on a road where they know everyone. She is surrounded by structure and routine. Familiarity. Socially, she mixes with people she’s know since she was a child and she shares with them her clearest memories. My Dad has always been a man of infinite patience.

One the areas that have always separated us is her emphasis on tidying, cleaning and housework, something I don’t share. The photograph above is her dressing table, as it is now. The last time I visited I caught sight of her dressing table. It really brought home how far her illness had progressed. I stood before it, simply shocked. My Dad stood next to me, he explained he can’t keep on top of everything and he just lets it go. It felt terribly sad to realize that she has no idea how her former self would be appalled by the current state of her dressing table.

I rang her on Mother’s day. She was very emotional and told me how much she loved me, that’s a positive element of her illness because, honestly, until she was ill it was something she never said. For me, Mother Love is a complicated thing.

51 Comments

  1. Alexander Residence

    Oh Gemma I want to give you a big hug reading this. So many resonances with my mum’s memory loss. I wish I had taken a photo of my mum’s bag, stuffed full of pieces of paper, cards, flyers, information she no longer had the capacity to completely process. Like your mum’s dressing table it used to be so organised. It’s so hard to explain memory loss/alzheimers. You have done it so clearly xx

  2. Jenny paulin @ mummy mishaps

    Gemma what an open and honest and emotional roller coaster of a post and indeed relationship you have with yournmum. I cannot imagine the anguish you feel I can only send you a cyberspace hug and tell you hw grave I think you are for posting this xx

  3. Kate Takes 5

    Oh Gemma it’s too early in the morning for me to be crying! Alzheimers is a very cruel illness and I guess you’re learning how the loss of the person is a gradual process and so you are forced to mourn over a long period of time. My Dad suffered it and passed away just over a year ago – I don’t really know what advice I can offer – only to grab the ‘clear’ moments with both hands and try to let the rest pass. Big hugs. x

  4. SAHMlovingit

    Oh blimey Gemma, you’ve just had me in tears (a few posts today have done this to me)….I can tell that was probably difficult for you to write but it’s so honest and open.

    My Grandad has Alzheimers and it’s so cruel. My best friends Dad has severe dementia and it’s heart-breaking to see him compared to the man he once was.

    I wish I could give you a squeeze xx

  5. Mother Hen

    This is a great photo and truely explains what it means to be a mom. Your blog should stay personal to you. It seems to be a helpful healing tool for you. Keep it up.

  6. Molly

    A beautifully-written post Gemma, and very poignant, like the last post about your mum. I agree that Mother Love is a complicated thing. Wishing you strength during the difficult time of her illness, Alzheimers is so cruel. xxx

  7. Anna

    Gemma this brought tears to my eyes. Alzheimers is such a painful illness to watch someone live with. My grandma had it and I remember my mum really struggling to come to terms with the fact that her mum had changed beyond recognition. You’re very brave to talk about this so openly. Sending hugs x

  8. Forest Flower

    My fantastic relationship with my gran was complicated by this disease. It’s heartbreaking both for the sufferer and the loved ones all around. A very poignant post. And very brave xx

  9. Deer Baby

    Beautiful post Gemma. The image of the dressing table speaks a thousand words. It’s the most cruel illness.

    My Dad doesn’t have Alzheimer’s but he has dementia and I’ve written quite a lot about how his memory loss has affected our family. It’s devastating to witness.

  10. mumfordandsons4real

    It’s ever such a powerful and I am slightly warmed by the fact that they are more fellow bloggers out there that struggle to have a relationship with their mother as I do!

  11. themuddyend

    Gemma, that was a really beautiful post and I hope that it has helped you to write it. Obviously it doesn’t change or alieviate the situation but maybe given you some more perspective. You’re clearly brave and compassionate you will get through it. Big hugs XX

  12. The Domestic Anarchist

    Very moving post, it’s alway the simple things that have a profound impact of us. I wish you and your family strenght in all that is to come.xxx

  13. Him Up North

    An amazing piece born out of one photograph. You describe a facet of Alzheimer’s seldom considered: the removal of the sharp edges from a person.

    Incredibly well expressed and a great contribution to the theme.

  14. steph curtis

    Sometimes it’s just good to share, isn’t it? Doesn’t make it go away but just lifts the burden for a little while. Your post made me cry too – I also have a complicated mum relationship but as she reads my own blog there’s often lots I feel I can’t write about. Maybe I’ll set up a duplicate one….! x

  15. Yuckymum

    Brilliantly written and illuminating. I am weeping along with the others here. Mother/daughter relationships are often fraught with anxiety and I know that I’ve been incredibly lucky. I had an aunt who suffered from Alzheimers, and she became very loving after years of reserve. It was very sad, but at least I was able to give her something back. Good luck Gemma. xxx

  16. Metajugglamum

    Unlike the others I can’t cry at this piece, which makes me sad but is very telling of my own state of mind on this subject. I’m crying on the inside for you though as I can relate to your words on so many levels. “Complex” only just touches the surface doesn’t it.
    You are braver than me for posting this. I write about everything going on in my life … except my relationship with my mother. I think that in itself speaks volumes so I’ll shut up now, except to say that your words are beautiful… estranged, but somehow warming and is a testament to your strength and patience. I wish you all the very best for the next phase and hope that it is not too painful for any of you.
    MJM. xx

  17. tiddlyompompom

    Oh lady. I wish I could give you a hug. Families can be complex and baffling at the best of times, especially the mother/daughter bit. Hoping you have the strength and support you need for the future x

  18. @mummiafelice

    My Grandmother had Alzheimers. Its the most evil of illnesses. It must be very hard for you considering the relationship you had, and now have. Like others have said, I wish I could give you a big hug.

  19. icklebabe_com

    You just made me cry, how hard it must be to share such a very difficult thing. You are SO right though, Mother love is so extremely complex. I am going to go ring my mum, I am lucky she is still very much *here* , thanku XXX

  20. Mummy and the Beastie

    You always write with such honesty and it shows here in this emotional post. I hate the way life can be so cruel. Those moments where she does tell you she loves you will stay with you forever though xx

  21. josiecjo

    Like Metajugglamum I have a relationship with my mum that I can’t really bring myself to write about. Your post has made me think about our relationship (something I need to do more of) and also reminded me that motherlove is not a straightforward, clearcut love. It is a tangled, complicated and unique web. Thanks for such a thoughtful post XXX

  22. TheMadHouse

    I have had this page open all day, not knowing what to write, not finding the right words to say what I want. So at the moment I am just going to let you know I have been here and I will come back again later

  23. Katie

    This is a very moving post, and got me close to tears. Alzheimer’s is a big cloud that hangs over my husband due to it being prominent in his family, and I know too well the impact it can have.
    The part about her telling you that she loves you is very moving- I am sure you treasure those moments.

    Hugs x

  24. janeblackmore

    Gemma, I am known more for my sarcastic responses to your blog posts but in this case I need to tell you how you have moved me to tears, you write beautifully and should be proud of you for being you.

    does that make sense, I hope you find some harmony with your mother and her illness and wish you all the strength and support I have

    xxx

  25. Michelle Twin Mum

    Oh wow Gemma, what an amazing raw post.

    I always hear how hard this illness is for the family. I think it is a blessing that your Mum now has no idea that the state of her dressing table might have upset her previously. Does that make sense? Of course it would be better if she did not have this illness, but as she does at least it is not torturing her in that way.

    My heart goes out to you. I can not even imagine.

    Mich x

  26. Multiple Mummy

    A beautifully honest post, written with clarity and no sense of bitterness (which I would not have held against you.) Mother and daughter relationships are indeed complicated, but to add dementia to that only increases pressure. As an ex occupational therapist, I worked along side clients with HIV related brain impairment but due to our therapy we also treated clients with both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. It is a traumatic and emotional time for both the client, carers and family. My heart goes out to you and I am in awe of your strength. If you ever need an ear… xx

  27. Sarah

    My Dad had an Alzheimers type illness and it was really shit, but I identify most with you when you talk of a complicated relationship. It is tough – but it sounds as if you have a handle on it. Hugs!

  28. helloitsgemma

    Thanks so much for all your touching comments and kind words, I’ve read all these comments several times over now. I didn’t intend or expect to make so many people cry.
    thank you – this is what I love about blogging – you are all fab xxx

  29. Kirsty

    What a moving post, and one that must have been very hard for you to write. You could almost start a novel with all this, the dressing table is such a poignant image. It’s so sad to think of a person almost ‘losing their personhood’ like this. And probably a harder time for those around her than it will be for her, in the end. Much love to you. x

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