Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mom's regrets influence me now

For the past several years Mom has expressed regrets about things in her life.   Each time we're together for more than a couple of hours she comes around to talking about them.  She's told me so often that I can almost quote, word for word, what she'll say about each instance.   Th regrets aren't about physical things she didn't have, not about places she didn't visit nor things she didn't do for herself.  Her regrets are about things she did not do for others.  Her regrets are about the people in her circle of friends and family that she could not or did not help. 

She regrets her parents divorce even though she was an adult; she knows how lonely each was in their elderly years. She regrets not pushing grandmas doctor to treat arthritis pain in grandmas back. She regrets that she didn't do more for a sister-in-law with chronic and painful migraines.  She regrets that my cousin could not have moved in with them. She wishes she'd done more for her grandchildren, nieces and nephews.... and on and on....

To understand why she didn't act, you have to understand a bit about my Mom.  Unless she gets really mad, she is not a confrontational person and she tries to be very polite.  At the time these events were going on, she felt it was rude, nosy or outside of her comfort zone to question, to comment or to act. She left things alone - and that's often her biggest regret because she saw events take an emotional and physical tole on people around her.   She regrets not acting to ease their discomfort or pain.   She regrets not saying or doing things to make people around her feel loved and supported. 

It's a difficult situation for me to understand because I saw her do so much for others. I try to live "up" to her good example with family and friends.  I don't understand why she's so hard on herself so I tell her just that.   I begin each response to each regret with "You're too hard on yourself; you did what you could at the time."  Now that we've made hard decisions about Mom and her care - now that I am primarily the one making the decisions and telling her about them - I hear my husband and family repeating the same things to me and to each other.   While I regret that I don't see her more often; I regret that she's not in her own home; I regret that she's no longer agile and strong - I won't regret moving her some place where she's safe and where the helpers treat her with affection and respect.  And, I'll learn from her regrets to show love and support when I can.