From Trauma to a New Connection: The Evolution of a Mother-Daughter Relationship

I returned home this past Saturday, after a pleasant day of watching a live performance of Evita and dining with a close friend, to three messages on my private phone line. On the first message I heard the words from a frantic unknown person:  mom, accident, bad, lots of blood, rushed to emergency. The second message was from my brother: Mom in hospital. The third was from his wife: Call immediately.

I left for the hospital immediately after speaking with my brother, a short 15-minute drive, and was directed to Room 11 in the emergency ward. The room was empty.

I was told Mom was in x-ray, and after waiting impatiently without knowing her condition for about 10 minutes, the doctor finally arrived. She had fallen, yet again, this time face first onto a metal drainage cover.

The scary part was that she took the shortcut to her mailbox, walking across wet grass and mud in the dark rainy night, with a flashlight and flimsy, cheap slippers, which caused her to slip on the large metal cover. And there she lay bleeding and unable to get up for about 20 minutes, yelling, “Help!”

The problem was that even if a car came by they would never have heard her over the rain, and she was not on the street, she was in the bushes. As she laid there praying to her God to send help, the neighbor inside the house closest to where she was decided to take a little nap and entered the bedroom closest to my mom, then opened her window.  The woman later told me that at first she thought she heard cats crying outside, and she shushed them. My mom, hearing her, yelled out for help again, and that’s how she was rescued.

They brought her to her house, leaving a bloody trail up the driveway and up the backstairs, and into the bathroom where they tried to stop the bleeding. Thankfully, the neighbors had already called the ambulance, which arrived quickly. The paramedics had her sit in a chair while they assessed and stabilized her injuries, then took her to the hospital.

Yes, I know about Medic Alert programs for exactly this reason. I’ve done the research and made recommendations to her. But she refuses to get one. Sunday, when I brought it up yet again, her reply was, “Well, Helen has one, but she never carries it.” Perhaps there is some logic in her reply that escapes me. More likely, she is speaking about herself and what having a Medic Alert system would say about her “¦ the ultimate sign of giving up her fiercely protected independence!

This is her sixth fall, and by far the worst fall yet. She broke her nose, which now has five stitches across the bridge of the nose. The gash in her forehead required nine stitches “¦ another scar to compliment scars from previous falls on her face. And her right arm now has a hairline fracture, adding to a previous right arm injury when a large woman lost her balance, knocked my mom down on the cement and fell on her.

My mom’s 92th birthday is Friday. Happy Birthday, Mom.

My brother arrived at the hospital shortly after she returned from the x-rays (he lives much farther away), and we decided that I would take her home and stay with her until Sunday night, after which he would return to stay with her for a few days. I have a business to run; he is retired, so this worked for us both.

The hospital wouldn’t release her for another hour, so I left to get Mom some clean clothes and an overnight bag for myself, and then returned to the hospital to pick up Mom and take her home. Meanwhile, my brother went to her house to get things set up, like a portable potty, a walker, etc.

It was very late at night by the time I got her cleaned up, changed into sleeping clothes, figured out a new way for her to get out of bed using her left arm and reviewed the medication and follow-up instructions from the doctor. I also cleaned up all the blood in the bathroom sink, counter and floor.

It was a restless night for us both.

On Sunday, I made her breakfast, got her settled in front of the TV, cleaned her kitchen and washed all the dishes, and then dealt with her bloody clothes and bloody chair. I was able to salvage all but the infamous cheap slippers, which I threw in the trash. Next I went to the pharmacy to get her prescription filled and picked up some groceries for her, and then it was time to make her lunch.

After lunch, we started talking (not much else to do), and I was able to learn more about her early life (she loves talking about herself). I was able to get a few things off my chest, although I am not so foolish as to think anything will change with her at this late stage. She still hates hugs and kisses and is still great at bashing other people, but I have changed to be more accepting of whom she is, and that’s more important. I don’t need her to be different anymore.

And then something amazing happened. She told me that she was glad that I was the one to care for her, especially in this initial stage, because my ways were gentle and loving, rather than my brother’s insensitive ways (like mother, like son).

Why that is especially relevant to me is because I am the black sheep of the family, and for nearly my entire life, I have had a strained relationship with my mother, and my brother and mom have always been very close.

I frequently hear from other people that my mom speaks highly of me, but she never speaks highly of me to my face, and is quick to judge, criticize and blame, so it was a very special moment for me, and perhaps for her, also.

I’ve heard that as people near the end of their lives — and it is quite probable that this could be her last year — they strive to rebuild fences and mend relationships. It pleases me to see my mom making an effort to mend our torn and tattered relationship.

I know deep down in my heart that she loves me the only way she knows how to, but that love is no less potent.

After all, I sense time is running out, and I want her to feel, with her last breathe, that she created two great kids who took care of her when she needed it, and that we loved her and appreciated what she did for us.

And for me?

No more thinking, “If only . . .”

Instead, I’ll spend more time enjoying the things she does that I appreciate.

It’s all I can really ask for, isn’t it?


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