Last days of summer

“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood”
Tom Robbins

Some people say that Labour Day marks the end of summer,

but not for me. I hold on to the beauty of this season

until the autumn equinox.

Maybe even longer.

I have resumed my morning ritual of painting in bed.

I pull all my supplies and my journal into the bed

and just begin.

It helps me remember that the raw dread I sometimes

wake up with is just a feeling.

Caring for my mother is difficult.

As silly as it sounds I am still afraid of

her. Afraid of displeasing her

Afraid of awakening her rage.

My fear is old and carved into my brain

like a mountain road is carved into the granite.

How many explosions does it take to cut through

a mountain– or a kid?

And she’s just a little old lady

frail with Dementia–and sweet

most of the time.

But still she can fill me with terror.

I have learned–well I am learning–

to have compassion for her and for myself.

I have hired a care giver again.

Four hours a week.

We will see how it goes this time.

She has already started to complain.

I think the thing is to not give in.

I think the thing is to hold my ground.

I have never been able to do that with her.

Now I have to grow up and be an adult,

and I think the best way, is to connect

with the child in me–

and have my happy childhood now.

So painting in my art journal is part of that.

I write down my sadness and then I paint over it

and it is surprising how my spirits

lift and my view of things shifts.

It is amazing how spending a little

time diverting your imagination from

endless ruminating on impending disaster

can transform my whole inner world.

If you paint it’s hard to think resentful thoughts.

If you splash colour around it’s hard to have all that

mess in your mind.

Life Lessons

Sometimes I think that the lessons of my life

have been delivered in a series

of disasters and catastrophes.

It is as if I somehow needed to

go sailing in a little paper boat,

during a raging storm,

in order to learn about the need for

life jackets.

Maybe if I had been paying more attention

to the seemingly insignificant events

of everyday life, I would have noticed

them gathering heavily and ominously

like clouds do, just before a hurricane.

Maybe I would not have set sail in such a flimsy boat.

And maybe now I wouldn’t be digging

through the rubble and ruin

to find the lessons left by so many storms.
_____________________________________________

So now my life again is filled with storms–

My mother has Alzheimer’s.

I am her sole care giver.

I have no siblings to share this with.

It sucks.

Literally.

It sucks my soul and my sanity and sometimes–

my sense that I can survive this.

And I am constantly thinking how I shouldn’t be

alone with this and how unfair it is–

and how I need my brother–

who left the world so long ago–

who died in such a terrible way–

to be here with me now–

learning what I am learning.

Of course I ask myself

Why would I write this?

Why would I dwell on this subject?

Why would I go to this place in my head?

When I could be in my imaginary garden

Playing with my comic fantasies

Or painting pretty pictures–

Why?

I am trying to do what

Ernest Hemingway advises–

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

Ok–so-this is what hurts.

I wake up in the morning, every morning–

with a feeling of raw dread

And I panic. What’s next?

Will I survive this twister?

Whatever it is?

And then I breathe.

Because in truth I am ok.

It is my mother who is not.

She is losing herself.

It’s impossible to help her.

I can not argue with her delusions.

I can not fight with her paranoia.

I wouldn’t even try.

But little brother–

she never got over losing you.

And every day she relives

the heartache of that loss.

And all her other losses–

so many–

And every day she suffers.

It’s amazing in some ways–

How she fights for what she wants–

how she refuses what she doesn’t–

She is not compliant.

She is fierce.

She’s a force to be reckoned with.

She is not going down without a fight.

It’s a gift to me in some ways.

Not a welcome gift.

Not a gift I would want to thank anyone for.

But a gift nonetheless.

It has something to do with my own healing

and I don’t fully understand it yet.

It’s a steep learning curve–

Grappling with this–

Finding meaning in it.

I am suddenly coming to the harsh realization,

that this is the painful climax–

the cruel resolution–

of a story that began even before she was born.

Perhaps I can come to terms with

my own true story as I play my part in this one.

And though it’s really tough-

and I would prefer this was all a bad dream–

I have to be awake and present for it.

I have something to learn here.

This is the part of my life story–

where I lose my mother.

And this is the part of her story

where she loses herself.

And it isn’t going to get better for her.

Not this time.

She wont escape this.

I can’t protect or rescue her from this.

All I can do is walk down this dark road with her,

holding her hand, through this desolate landscape.

And Oh my God–

I’m trying to understand what is being asked of me

by my own soul.

What teaching am I meant to take from this

violent and terrible storm–

And why does it have to be so hard

to learn whatever it is I am learning?

When I think of my mom, usually words like —

Vitriolic, Vindictive, Venomous, Victimizing–Viscious–

are the first that come to mind.

But seriously folks–

And now that she has Alzheimer’s I can add

Delusional and Desperate and Demonic.

When she was young and I was a child,

when we were children–

She was glamourous.

Gorgeous.

Gentle.

Generous.

The prettiest mom of all the moms.

High heels.

Red lipstick.

Big hair.

Big eyes.

A party girl.

And a singer.

A beautiful voice.

Everyone would ask her to sing

And she always would.

Single mom in a time when there

wasn’t a name for it–

Or an understanding of how difficult it is to

be one.

Strong independent.

Cruel if I displeased her–

abusive they would say now-

moody, mean, manic-depressive–

although we didn’t have a name for

the crazy times that came and went.

Mostly I loved her.

Mostly I adored her.

She was the queen of my world.

And I did everything I could to

please her and protect her.

I usually disappointed her.

In childhood I learned how to take care of myself,

And in truth–I gave birth to myself–my true self–

when I chose to be an artist.

but that is part of another chapter–

I have found so much I can admire about my mom.

I can admire her and understand her now–

She is fighting for her life.

And maybe she always was.

The only way she knew how to live was to fight.

She is smart as a fox and as fierce.

She knows where the traps are.

She can smell them.

Little old crazy fox-woman,

I can love her for that.

Coping with her terrible behaviour now,

and actively making a point to remember

all the beauty and love that she

offered me in her own way–

is a way I can love myself.

Sometimes I am not successful and I torment myself

with my life long addiction to self pity.

But then I snap out of it and remember that I don’t actually

need to suffer in this. It is my Mom who is actually suffering.

And I stand back up and rise to what is being asked of me.

I can do this. I tell myself.

Thank you God for honouring me with this mighty task

and for allowing my soul to journey through this difficult

terrain. Help me continue to hold the light within myself

enough to see the road in front of me.

And to learn the lessons that my life is offering me.

I am trying to speak these true and difficult things out loud

so as to cross that bridge between art and life–

and see if I can pick up the pieces of my torn and

tattered soul over there in that place between the worlds.