Care-giving is a learned skill. As I look back at the early days of my journey with Mom, it is instructive to see what I did back then and what I would do differently now.
One day, as I left Assisted Living, I mentioned that I needed to go home to do the dishes.
“I can help,” she ventured. “Can I come home with you and help?” She asked twice. Yearning.
But I left. Incredibly guilty but still I left. At the time I rationalized, telling myself that I had to bring activities to her not take her away from the security of Assisted Living. Conveniently, the staff was organizing a walk but, to my shame, I think I just wanted to get away from a life I hadn’t yet learned to accept and appreciate. And at the back of my mind was most likely that dread assumption—She won’t remember.
The next day I brought huckleberries for her to help hull. It’s a wicked job—removing filament thin stems off tiny berries—but she excels at it. Plus she gets to eat the berries. She was so happy to help.
But still, if I knew then what I know now, I would have brought her home to help with familiar chores like drying the silverware and folding the dishtowels and helping set the table. Things she loves to do, tasks that would trigger her muscle memory and an activity that would be a source of pride and accomplishment. I would have relaxed. Lucky to be with her, lucky to share a mother-daughter moment. Perhaps no more than a fleeting moment but still—priceless.
This is the painting she did that week – the model and the painting.