A Mother’s Need

It was June of 2009 and Mom was still able to communicate with me though it took much prodding. She looked especially beautiful today with her neatly styled auburn hair held back with a brown headband. The color on her cheeks and lips disguised her true condition but made it easier for her to face what she saw in the mirror….a beautiful face that had aged ever so gracefully, now unable to mask the confusion and mental anguish.

Her bed was elevated to a sitting position as she sat up watching me move about her room unpacking her clean clothing trying to fit it all into that tiny space. There were too many things so I decided to take some home and rotate from week to week. I tried to draw her into the activity and engage her opinion as I sorted. What to take and what to keep here? What did she like or not like. It was important for me to include her in every decision to the extent that she could understand. I desperately wanted her to feel that she still had some control over decisions concerning her welfare, though in reality she had lost that completely. Decisions were now made for her and I knew this must be an incredible loss for such an energetic involved woman, so capable of caring for herself over the 10 years since Dad’s death.

I wondered how she felt knowing her independence was gone and she now depended on others for practically everything. “Which sweater do you like better Mom? The black and white striped or the Kelly green one? Do you like these Capri pants or the longer slacks? Despite the fact that it was mostly a one sided conversation, I continued on as if she was making all the decisions. She just watched me working away and every now and then would say “Why don’t you take that”……or “You can have that, I don’t need it”. It was so typical of Mom to try to give things away if she had the slightest hint that you might like it. Mom was never too attached to “things” even though she enjoyed the thrill of the hunt through resale shops, flea markets and yard sales. If you were a collector of anything at all, you just had to tell Mom to keep an eye out and she’d probably find it somewhere for a steal. Finding “things” that others might need or just fancy, was an adventure for Mom and brought her great joy when she was able to make someone smile with her find.

Cranberry V-neck sweaters were the rage when I was a senior in High School and Mom knew how I liked them. But as the oldest girl in a family of 12 kids, I knew that Dad was doing good to provide the basics for our brood. He couldn’t fund every teen fad I craved. I didn’t even ask. I didn’t have to, because without any indication to me, Mom was already on the hunt. I came home from school one day and beheld the most beautiful Cranberry sweater laying on my bed! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It looked new! Was it? “ Where did this come from Mom”? I screamed in delight! She walked in wearing that big Irish grin….a smile that would light up even the darkest room. “Does it fit? Is that the right color”? “Oh Mom, I just can’t believe this! Mom, you’re too much…thanks Ma…..it’s perfect” ! We hugged as she related the details of her treasure hunt. She’d found it at a resale shop, like new, hardly worn and a designer name! Her joy was greater than my own at seeing me so happy.

There are many stories similar to this that bring a smile to my face like the time she found a very large lid for Nick’s over-sized iron skillet. We’d hunted everywhere for a lid to fit that frying pan but lids new or old of that odd size weren’t to be found. Yet, one day during one of her visits to us, she found the perfect lid at a garage sale. Nick (the cook) couldn’t believe it! We were all amazed that it fit as if it was custom made! Mom grinned , did a little jig over her success and was exuberant.

For so many years, she’d taken such delight in meeting the needs of her children in countless ways. But those years were now coming to a close. The time had come for us to anticipate and meet all of her needs. “Mom, help me out here. I’m cleaning out your closet and I’m not sure what you want to keep”. I knew she could care less what clothes I’d keep or remove, yet, I wanted her to know she was still calling the shots even if only in small ways. She was, after all,……..my mother….our mother. It didn’t matter to me how weakened or disabled she was right now. She was the mother who I honored, respected, loved and admired. She was the epitome of a Proverbs 31 Woman whose children would rise up and call her blessed.

Her response came slow but steady as she peered straight into my eyes and said in a very calm, controlled and clear voice, “ I don’t need anything. I only need my children.”

Love, Christine

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