I found out from my sister-in-law yesterday that my mother was seriously ill. Only after bombarding my sister with Facebook messages did I finally learn more about the situation in the Philippines, where my family is. She has sent me updates since then, although nothing seems to have changed in the last 20 hours, or so it seems. My mother suffered multiple brain infarcts, a.k.a. strokes, which caused her to collapse and hit her head. Apparently, she was also suffering from severe pneumonia which was flooding her right lung and causing extremely difficult breathing. CT scans also confirmed that she has vascular dementia in an advanced state.
All my life, I have known my mother to be the worst patient ever. She refused to see doctors and always self-diagnosed and self-medicated, relying on her own knowledge and skills as a doctor. The only thing she always ever complained about was her varicose veins, which she refused to have treated and which made walking and standing very difficult for her as the years progressed.
She would never admit to any other pain or illness. She would never admit to or show any sign of weakness. Everyone who knows her will say she is a very strong woman. Many will say she is also a very stubborn woman. All her life that I have known her, she would not show emotions. Seeing her laugh was a very rare thing. She did not really smile–the most would be a sort of half-twisted grimace that was meant to pass as a smile, one eye blinking shut in the way you make a face when you taste something sour. She always had a serious, stern face. Because of that, she didn’t develop any creases or wrinkles on her face. I haven’t really seen her in several years, but I don’t think she had wrinkles the last time I saw her.
That’s probably why nobody ever realized that she already had dementia. At some point, she was becoming somewhat forgetful, but not anything serious. She has always been an extremely organized person, and had a system and a routine for everything so that she was not likely to forget things. She was always in control of herself, was not spontaneous, and followed a schedule. She was also very good at being nice, friendly, and generous to other people. She would fawn on them and flatter them and coo and chirp. Her side of the conversation consisted of a lot of questions that would focus on the person she was talking to. I don’t know if she ever really gave a solid answer or shared feelings or personal opinions with anyone. She could be completely displeased and angry at us, but would be all syrup and sweetness the moment she turned to face someone else. So I’m not surprised nobody saw her dementia coming on. All she needed to do was to pretend she was perfectly fine and never admit to any of the symptoms she might have been experiencing.
But what do I know? This is all just from my point of view. I have never truly interacted with her in any way besides her being a strong and distant authority figure in my life. I was never taken in by her public persona because I had experienced otherwise.
I don’t blame her for the way she treated me or dealt with me. I don’t blame her for all the times she betrayed me or my trust. I have gotten over that and have made a life for myself several times over. I have shaken off the need to please her or be accepted by her because I have realized that I don’t need her approval or praise to be successful at anything. I have realized that I don’t even need her love to be me, to be successful. I have succeeded in detaching myself, letting go of her, because I did not want to be drawn down by the negative emotions that always surfaced after spending enough time around her. I have learned not to care and to leave her be, just as she left me to my own devices.
Which now brings me to her current serious condition. Is it wrong that I am not distressed, not distracted, not depressed, not emotionally affected? I am certainly not going to go out of my way. I know I will be of no use anyway. All her favorite children are with her. I don’t imagine she will even miss me–she wouldn’t remember to invite me to any casual occasions they would have, expecting me to just magically show up when I didn’t even know there was any occasion to do so. She never missed me on all those outings and never went out of her way to include me, even if she included many others whom she had “adopted” into her family. With her favorites and her daughters-in-law and grandchildren all surrounding her, I’m sure she’ll be perfectly fine.
I have defined my own life, my own happiness, my own success. I might be her daughter, but I am my own woman.