16 Years Later

Dear Mom,

How long did you sit by the phone before deciding to call me for help back in 2007?

Sitting here now, 16 years later, I can only imagine the courage it took for you to make that call. Dad was working night shift; brother was working otherwise inaccessible with his young child. I was 23, newly married & without kids so I was able to help.

I would have come under any circumstance, though.

You’re Parkinson’s had progressed to your legs freezing at the most inopportune moments leaving you unable to move, sometimes when you were on the way to the bathroom but unable to physically make it there.

I’m ashamed of how I handled this situation, but I recognize I didn’t have the tools to do different. You were visibly embarrassed to have me, your youngest child helping you, and I felt that secondhand embarrassment and didn’t know what to do with it. I was the baby, only the 2nd of two children, but among the youngest cousins on both sides and raised as such – protect the baby. Although fiercely independent like you, I was used to being directed, told what to do and thus following the directions. I just wanted you to tell me what to do and I would do it, to help you. I helped you walk to the bathroom, side to side swaying steps in unison, this was always one of my favorite ways to help you, by the way.  Then sat alone in the living room while you cleaned yourself up. Several times I got up and walked by the bathroom door to ask if there was anything I could do, but if it was something you could manage yourself you did not want help.

I get that, I’m the same way.

Then I stayed with you for a short while to be sure you’d be ok left alone for the rest of the night. I wish I would have just embraced you then, held you and told you I loved you and that it was going to be ok. I didn’t know how to do that, and I feared the emotions. I followed your lead, as any child who adores their mother would, and was scared to take the lead.

Long term disease is so complicated because the days, months, and years seem so long, and yet these moments when I could have embraced alone time with you, shared your grief, sadness, and frustration at what Parkinson’s Disease was doing to your body, to your independence; instead, I let it pass by me because I didn’t know how to start. And your independence was trying to protect me from the whole situation. But I was there.

I guess you cried as soon as I left to return to my home. How long did you cry for? Did you cry for you or for me? I usually wait until I’m alone to cry too.

I love you,

Liz

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