I go out every month or two with a good friend of my parents, her name is Kay. Proudly I can tell you Kay is an exceptional friend of mine too. I love getting together with her. She is a kind, wonderful woman with a great sense of humor and we laugh a lot. On this particular occasion, I was sharing with Kay my experience of hiring a Music Therapist for Mom.
The Music Therapist’s was Barbra Lee Friedman. I was also lucky to have friend of mine, Nancy, offer to video tape the session. It was spectacular! My Mother responded to the music like a child to the Pied Piper. She Smiled. Her eyes popped open. She was participating, interacting, and ALIVE! I cannot thank Nancy and Barbara enough for this gift. A cherished moment in time, 30 minutes captured for a lifetime. As I pushed the DVD over for Kay to see the picture of Barbra, Mom and I, Kay gasped. Then she said in a shocked voice said, “Oh my gosh, she looks horrible!”
I broke into a giggle, and as Kay’s eyes pierced mine for a brief moment It was than; I realized another significant shift had taken place within me. I was aware of how it affected me, but never realized the distance it would put between others and me. I continued to laugh and explained to Kay, that I do not look at things the same way. Although I know my Mother’s hair is unkempt and even unruly at times, that her teeth are chipped and discolored, that she might have a few wild hairs on her chin… I no longer focus on her exterior appearance the way I used too. I know longer am willing to cause her trauma and discomfort, so she is easier to look at. Mom doesn’t understand what grooming is about anymore. It frightens her.
So just what do I see? I look at my Mother’s eyes. Are they open? Do they have a sparkle? Is she holding them shut tight in protest? Is she smiling? If so what type of smile? Big and bold? Small and knowing? Do her dimples show? Is she laughing or giggling? Is she grimacing in pain? Are her hands tapping to a beat? Or twisting and tugging like she is frustrated with something? Is she pointing at something for me to look at?
I know longer anticipate what I think she should look like, or what I would love for her to look like. Our connection runs deeper. Safety and Happiness are the primary things I look for, in my Mother now. They are the things that matter to me. For me, all I need to do is slow down, pay attention, and watch my Mother’s signals. To be able to read the signs she is giving me, is important. To be able to bring her joy and comfort, or to be part of a joyous moment with her is precious beyond words.
I am not saying I am right or Kay is wrong. It is what it is, and everyone is coming from it at a different stage when dealing with illness. I can tell you though, it is so much easier for me to see my Mother, knowing I will not be disappointed or looking for someone to blame for my disappointment, because of the standards I set up. Life is so much simpler when I choose to look at things in this manner.