My mother has always been my biggest supporter and has been my biggest critic. She was encouraged by pediatricians to put me on numerous diets throughout my life. She hid food. She restricted food. She made me salads and ground burger meat (her Atkins diet before Atkins). She would tell me in not-so-many words that if I didn't lose weight, I'd never have a boyfriend. And despite all that angst she caused me, she was kinda right. After losing weight in college, I got noticed. I got asked out. The same guys that knew me "fat" saw me differently when I was slender. And then I met my future husband when I was 20; a few months after losing over 75 pounds. She did it because she loves me.
And now she is driving me to eat. I've been binging. Even with Weight Watchers weigh-in looming this Thursday, I am eating. My mom is turning 75, but her mind is turning 95. She has been losing her memory. I've been noticing it for the last 2 years since she visited me when I was due with my youngest. The above picture I took during that time. She sat down next to me around that time and asked me if it was 1968. 1968? I wasn't born in 1968. You didn't know my father in 1968. I don't even think you were even in America in 1968. I dismissed it as her being out of her element: away from her apartment in Massachusetts; away from her routine; away from her extended family, etc.
She called me sometime last week in a panic that she was losing her memory and is starting to become afraid. Then I started to become afraid. She assured me that she would go to a doctor about it. Then a day later told me she wouldn't go to a doctor because there was nothing they could do--that she knew better than me because she had more experience with the elderly than I do. She was a home health aide to the elderly and disabled. She resurrected many clients from sickly, almost dying people and extended their lives for months and often, many years. And now she needs someone to resurrect her from dementia. It isn't possible to recover from that. I just need her here with me. With that knowledge, I am trying to figure out the resources in my community for my mother who lives on a very fixed income.
She had me when she was 39. She raised me by herself. She worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week. Imagine working 45 years for Social Security income and it only being $900 a month. She didn't know about retirement planning: Roth IRAs, 401Ks, etc. She has been paying $11 a month for almost 30 years for a life insurance policy of $10,000. As a Spanish speaking immigrant, she had no one to teach her how to manage her economic life after retirement. And I didn't have the tools to teach her until recently. She plays the lottery weekly in hopes of hitting the big jackpot so she can make great things happen for her and for me, and for my kids. She calls me and tells me to play the lottery. And I sometimes do. With a bit of hope that I win and make our lives better.
But mostly I worry. And that worry turns to hunger. And that hunger cannot be filled up by all the Chinese takeout, cookies, bowls of cereals that I shove down my throat. I've tried to "stuff" that hunger and hope for it to be filled.
I am trying to do better for myself. I am her only child. I am my children's only mother. I am my husband's wife. I need to take care of myself so I can take care of them. I will be working hard to stop myself from filling the void that can't be filled. But it is hard to constantly remind myself that I am abusing myself when I don't deserve it and my mother only wants the best for me.