It’s Marriage Monday over at Chrysalis, and the topic is “communication.” When I sat down to write my blog post, I’d planned to write about how my inner dialogue impacts our communication as a couple, but this is what came out instead!
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“Of all “the looks” my mother has given me through the years — delight, exasperation, joy, frustration, pride — I never imagined (and could not have possibly prepared for) the one she gave me yesterday: oblivion. Alzheimers has ruthlessly plundered my mother’s memory, stealing even the name she so carefully chose for me.”
This was my Facebook status update one month ago today. I’d just visited my mother, who has been declining for several years.
When I arrived, something felt very “not right” about Mother’s response to me. It took several hours to realize that she had not seemed happy or even surprised to see me; she had not addressed me by name or asked me why I was there or how long I was saying.
My mother had not known me.
I’d spent 44 years bemoaning that she didn’t really understand me, “get” me, know me. Now she really doesn’t know me. My own mother has never known me. And now, she never will.
I’d wanted, needed, expected so much more from her. I’d spent 44 years trying to re-create her in the image of who I thought my mother should be. I’d secretly believed that she could become the kind of mother who knew me, who understood me, if she really wanted to. If she tried hard enough. If she changed enough.
But I failed to change her, so I’ve spent four decades feeling unknown, unloved.
Daniel and I celebrated 23 years yesterday. And I spent far too many of those years trying to re-create him in the image of who I thought my husband should be. I not-so-secretly insisted that he could become the kind of husband who knew me, who understood me, if he really wanted to. If he tried hard enough. If he changed enough.
Failing to change my husband, I felt unknown, unloved.
A friend, whose mother’s memory is failing, posted this compassionate comment to my Facebook status: “My mother has been saying to me for several months, ‘I don’t know who you are, but I know I love you with all my heart.’ ”
I wept tears of hope while reading this, at first for my future relationship with my mother. Then I realized the powerful implications for all relationships.
How well do any of us know and understand each other?
At best, we know bits and pieces. We know what we can know; we understand what we can understand. We each do the best we can.
I finally understand, at a heart level, the futility of trying to change people. The best I can do now is to stop insisting that my loved ones know me – or more accurately, make me feel known and understood.
The best I can do now is recognize that even though my mother does not know me now, she has always loved me with all her heart.
I wish I could have done so sooner, much sooner. My chances to know and appreciate my mother for who she was — rather than for who she wasn’t — are gone.
But I have more chances with Daniel, and I’m determined not to waste them.
The best I can do now is learn to communicate to him, in word and in deed, “I may never know fully who you are, but I do know I love you with all my heart! (Click to Tweet this.)