Today is going to be a long day; I must drive about an hour and a half to my mother’s, pick her up, take her to her primary care doctor, run other errands as needed, take her home, and then drive the hour and half home. It is not the driving and running around that will be hard on me. The difficulty will be in remaining patient and kind in dealing with my mom.
My mother has medical concerns, but those medical concerns are not what will make the day challenging; it is my mother’s personality and attitude. She is my mom, and I love her for it. She was and is extremely intelligent and capable, having done things I could never do. Before her vision issues got so bad that they hindered her, she did amazing things. Not only is she creative and artistic, engaging in painting in several mediums and creating stained glass, she also learned to fly a plane. Not only did she learn to fly a plane, she also became a flight instructor! I could give you a long list of her wonderful abilities and accomplishments, but this has always been overshadowed by being someone with whom it is hard to live. This was true even when we were children. I’d have to say that I had a wonderful childhood, but if I had to pick one thing that I would have changed if I could have done so, it would have been my mother’s attitude and temper.
The negative aspects of her personality seem to have become magnified as she has gotten older, and if there is one thing on which family members can count, it is that when you talk with mom, 90% of what she has to say will be negative. She holds a grudge for ever! About a year ago mom was once again moaning and complaining about a wrong that had been done to her, about which I have heard hundreds of times. In this particular conversation, I asked her if it was not time to let that go. After all, it had happened 21 years before. First, she argued that it had not been that long, and I walked her back through history. She was stunned when she realized that I was right, but in her mind it is as fresh even now as it was back then. Yes, she still gripes about this issue. I try to get her focused on other things – more recent and positive, but the refocus does not last long.
I may be the same way when I am her age, but I hope not. Almost everything is about her, which is one reason it is hard to have conversations about what is going on in the life of others or to discuss other things. If it does not relate to her directly, she has a hard time focusing on those things. The exception to this is when her grandchildren and great-grandchildren come for visits. First, these visits are rare because of distance. Second, they are short, again because of distance. Finally, it gives her a focus that attracts her attention like nothing else I have seen in years and years. It is on these rare visits that I can feel fairly sure the conversation will not be mostly negative. In fact, there is usually no negativity; these rare moments are usually enjoyable times.
Since I will not have anyone with me today and since she will be going somewhere that makes her nervous (the doctor’s office) she will talk non-stop from the time I arrive this morning until I leave her house to come home this afternoon. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. What is bad is that based on years of experience, especially since I talk to her in some way almost every day, I know that 90% of what she will talk about, despite my attempts to change topics and tone, will be negative. About 75%, if not more, of what she will talk about will be going over the same ground of previous upsets, hurts, and disappointments about which I have heard dozens, if not hundreds of times; it will just depend upon what she has been dwelling of late. It is emotionally draining, and I don’t know how to make it better.
Does anyone else have a challenging relationship with an elderly parent? Do you have advice on how to patiently and lovingly deal with someone who is difficult to be around because of negativity?
Have a blessed and happy day!