Sometimes there is a deep sense that I am not being entirely honest in expressing my feelings about handling the care of my elderly parent. To be quite matter of fact and accurate is not easy when, frankly, conflicting emotions have a battle, often, within my mind.
While the necessity of doing the everyday, practical tasks can keep us occupied there are, well, thoughts like resentment, anger, even reluctance and over-sensitivity to remarks from a mother who (at least in earlier days) does not configure how much effort of will and sheer sense of duty keeps things ticking, keeps the day organized, the logistics worked out, the planning carried on day after day.
Resentment creeps in when there is a realization that the day is not entirely one’s own, that going out for some recreation means not just running off spontaneously, but requires getting meals ready, laid out, and warm (where really is the ‘hardship’ in that? But still). Resentment comes roiling up also because churning in the brain is a childish thought that why do I have to do all this – what did SHE do for ME all my life, as if I can remember down to the time I was born and thereafter every single detail of HER responsibility as a mother to me? There is immense injustice in that towards her, and yet there are more amorphous feelings that swirl about making me dissatisfied and at the same time guilty but are even harder to pin down into expression. Better to acknowledge them and get them to ease off sometimes.
These thoughts, strangely, get counteracted by a sense of responsibility, compassion, and plain common-sense, that this thing has to be done, dear girl.
What gets addressed by this sense of responsibility is that we don’t only do something for someone else as a balance for how much we feel has been done for us. Someone needs you, that’s it, because otherwise that means looking back at life and remembering unambiguously all the negative things that lurk around in goodness knows what corners of the mind, that come out and trouble us at opportune moments when we are feeling lazy, uninspired, fed up with the whole dreary routine. And as if there is only something unflattering to recall. Common sense helps – this is life and we have to deal with it. More importantly, compassion and humanity matter if one is not to turn the caring for my elderly mother into a power relationship. After all, we are younger, fitter, abler, we are mobile, able to read, to write, to speak and most of all, NOT YET inflicted with the troubles that will creep up or crash down on us when WE reach an advanced age. So better forget that notion of having somehow an ascendency over the parents just because we are still so many years from their helplessness.
We have the power to make the elderly invalid feel more secure and unafraid. That someone is always there, that body, mind and soul are taken care of. All that yelling and anger belted out at us from the early days of looking after my mother, which we acknowledge came from the sense of loss of power and dignity within her, have dissipated. There is peace but at the same time her life seems so devoid of quality even if we are doing our very best. People tell us carers also feel stress (you’re telling me!). But in fact we are lucky. We work in tandem, Mummy’s daughters, the women who work as day and night carers for her now and the compassionate man that Uday is, helps even more. Uday does not give in, ever, to feelings of being saddled with an old person who uncharitably could be considered a dead weight, when for instance, I might get fed up and throw up my hands in frustration.
As sentient beings it’s fine for us to feel such ‘wrong’ emotions and we are not duty bound, but how does one lead a decent life if not listening to one’s conscience?