I remember a time in the last year when my daughter walked through the kitchen as I was preoccupied with doing something for my mom. Noticing that I wasn't giving her my full attention, my daughter said,
When Nonna is gone, we're going to get our mom back full time.
My kids were very understanding and supportive of me while I helped my mom, but they had to share me with her for a long time. Within the past six months, while adjusting to her absence and dispersing her belongings, my husband and kids got me three fourths back. I don't think my daughter imagined that when they truly got me back full time, it would be during a pandemic, and we'd all have to readjust our lives again!
Right before things escalated last week, she and I came to Florida for her spring break. This trip was a long time coming. We would have the opportunity to spend quality time together, she could rest up, and I could continue to reenergize after plowing through the Alzheimer's journey. While I remembered all the times I had laid in bed, answering consistent phone calls from Alz, I could hardly wait to put sunscreen over my cellulite. That's right. Let me explain.
The Saturday morning we left, my mind moved between two thoughts. The first one being, I got through my mom's Alzheimer's. I remember several Saturday mornings when my phone would start to ring before sunrise and continued non-stop for hours. These weren't pleasant phone calls. They would be from my mom, who was not my mom, so I like to say they were from Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's makes people do and say crazy, unthinkable things that are not of rational behavior. It is also common that Alzheimer's doesn't like the people who are providing the care, so caregivers are often told off by Alzheimer's. One quickly learns this, and there is no use talking back to Alz. The practice of patience, patience, patience, and just listening is hard but necessary to push through. There is a common suggestion offered by some people that if Alz starts calling, answer a few times but then stop if you know that your loved one is safe.
Yes, my mom's caregivers and I would figure out how many times I should answer the phone until I could let it go. But some days were different, like the Saturdays I remember. I'd lay in bed and answer the calls until they stopped. I would stop counting how many times Alz would call me because really, what's the use in keeping track? The caregivers would do their part being present with her, and I'd be doing mine from afar. We had great teamwork. I'd grab my coffee and a book, and lay in bed until Alz would tire itself out. I'd reread the same paragraph multiple times while also writing down what Alz had to say to me. One could get her feelings hurt by or argue with the one-way conversational garbage Alz spits out. But instead, I always found it fascinating. I could, but I won't tell you the things Alz with a terrible attitude says to a person. While you're praying your loved one gets to Heaven, Alz wants you to go in the opposite direction. Alz is just an unbelievable fascinating disease that has a mind of its own that no one understands.
The other thought I had while my daughter and I were waiting to depart was that we were going to a warm destination. I remembered something else she said to me about five years ago, sixteen and in high school. It was also on spring break, and I was rubbing sunscreen into my paled winter skin. With my kids all around me doing the same, she said,
Mom, I love your cellulite.
No one had ever said they loved my cellulite before. The comment stopped my hand in its motion. Do I love my cellulite? From that moment on, I decided I did. I know for a fact my mom didn't like her cellulite and rarely wore shorts or a swimsuit. I could have been self-conscious too and gotten all bent out of shape when my daughter said this about the shapes and lines, and whatever else is visible on my skin. But no. Life is too short. Is outer beauty what life is about? Focusing on it steals breath away and is energy wasted. How about the gifted beauty from within that stirs and feeds the souls of one another. Especially in challenging times when illuminating and sharing artistry can take us far and help ease our minds.
I know my mom learned from me, and I love learning from my daughter. Each time I've applied lotion or sunscreen to my skin since that memorable spring break, I say tenderly and dearly, I love my cellulite. As well as every other mark and wrinkle and gray hair that makes up the outer part of me. I know my mom is watching over us cheering us on; happy my daughter and I had our week together saying,
Well-deserved, and keep going, girls. That's the way to break those chains.
Thank you for the relationship between mothers and daughters and the opportunity to learn from one another even when we are different. Help us to recognize that our uniqueness is a strength and put into our hearts the everlasting thought that beauty illuminates from within. Inspire us to tap into the creativity that lives in each of us so that we may share it with others, even if unpolished, to brighten the gift of life. If chains hold us down from learned thoughts, send the strength and knowledge to unlatch from them. Guide us to walk forward lighter not only to live our life to the fullest but for the betterment of the next generation of women.