MY REMARKABLE MOTHER
I Should, Would Have and Could Have Made My Mom’s Life Easier. I Wish I Had.
Only now do I understand the responsibility of a child with an ill parent. Now it is too late.
I should have…
In the late 80’s, my mother was diagnosed with heart disease. Her heart was in terrible condition. She had severe congestive heart failure.
Once she was sick, Ma was offered the opportunity to be put on the heart transplant list. She refused saying “Child, I’m not going to let them cut on me.”
She died less than ten years later from her heart disease. The disease got progressively worse. Many of those ten years were difficult for her. I could have made those years easier for her.
Earlier in life, my mom was an alcoholic. She smoked. Now and then, she smoked marijuana.
She never exercised. I don’t ever remember seeing her deliberately engage any form of exercise other than strolling. She would walk everywhere she went around our home because she did not want to spend bus fare. She was not trying to beef up her heart.
I was a busy married career woman with two kids and a demanding job. I was trying to “make it happen every day.” My mother’s illness was not on my daily “to do “list. It should have been.
I missed the time when my mother got clean of alcohol. She called me up one day and said, “I haven’t had a drink in three months.” I never celebrated that success with her. I said, “Cool.” I did not provide feedback on how proud I was when she stopped drinking. I kept that to myself. I would have told her had I know how soon she would be gone from me.
I missed it when she stopped smoking. She informed me during a face-to-face visit: she didn’t smoke anymore. I said, “ That’s good.” I did not inquire how she did it or give her the congratulations she deserved. I could have given her the respect that such an accomplishment deserves. I did not.
I missed it when she got sick. I never fully accepted how ill my mother was. I knew, but I always thought there was more time with her available. There wasn’t. She left me with many things unsaid and undone. I should have acted.
From my perspective, one day she was an alcoholic, the next she was not.
One day she smoked three packs a day, the next she did not.
One day she was healthy, the next she had severe congestive heart failure.
By the time I realized how sick my mom was, it was almost too late.
Like my mother before me, I had a child at 15. My mother’s, grandmother’s and family’s support were the only way I finished high school and college.
Their unwavering belief in me made me do what I needed to succeed. There was no way to pay that support back.
Once I understood how sick my mother was, I moved back to the Chicago area from Corona, California. I took a position in the suburbs of Milwaukee, WI to be closer to her.
I should have taken a more active role in her health care. I could have talked with her about her decision to not get on the heart transplant waiting list. I did not. I assumed we had more time. I regret that lack of communication to this day.
I do not think she understood that her heart would get weaker and weaker over time until she could barely accomplish any tasks around her house.
She went to the hospital each week for treatments of some sort. I am sorry to say I don’t even know what those treatments were. I was content to allow my other brothers and sisters to work with her health care professionals. I’m sorry I did that now.
I should have understood my mother’s health issues and been there for her to help with the hard decisions.
“Shoulda Woulda Coulda”
I could see in the distance all the dreams that were clear to me
And every choice I had to make left you on your own
Somehow the road we started down had split us somewhere
Too late to realise how far apart we’d grown.
How I wish I, wish I’d done a little bit more
Now “ Shoulda woulda coulda,” means I’m out of time
Coz “Shoulda woulda coulda”, can’t change your mind
And I wonder, wonder what I’m gonna do
I would have
Had I been a better-informed daughter, I would have done more.
Many weekends I would drive to Chicago, picking up my grandmother from the West side of Chicago to take her to visit my mother on the South side of Chicago. It was out of the way to pick up my grandmother on my way to my mother’s, but we wanted to be together.
Me, my mom and grandmother would sit around and watch TV, videos and movies. Often my other brothers and sisters would come over to visit with us bringing food and drink.
Other times I would take us to a riverboat to play the slot machines. They both loved that.
By this time my mom was sober and did not smoke. She was pleasant to be around, but that was an illusion. Her illness was bringing her down a little each day. I would have made a bigger difference in the happiness of her daily life if I had paid closer attention.
There was no air conditioning in my mom’s house. She passed away in the fall. That summer had been brutally hot. Although she had a window air conditioner in her bedroom, the rest of the house was smoking hot. I knew that because of the weekends when I took my grandmother there and we all sat downstairs in the front room with the windows open and fans spinning.
While I was not rich, I could have done more. Another small air conditioner could have made Ma’s room more pleasant.
I paid for my mother’s phone bill because I wanted to talk to her. She needed to reach others in case of an emergency.
I went down to Chicago at least twice a month; I could have gone more. I missed opportunities to spend time with her. I thought we had more time.
I always saw my mother as a strong-willed woman raising six children on her own. I did not perceive her as a person who could have used my help. I am sorry. I was not mature enough to see my mom as a person. She always stood ten-feet tall. I did not see past her mom facade which she kept until the end.
“The blame lies with our brains. while they are really good at building circuits, they are really bad at unbuilding them.” — Daniel Coyle
I could have taken more time to be with her if I had been mature enough to see past my distorted perceptions into reality.
I could have
I could have been more understanding. I could have listened to her, paid more attention to her. My mother died unexpectedly… but it should not have been unexpected.
I think about the time I was in the hospital fearing for my life for five days, with a life-threatening illness, and I cry for my mom. I was afraid for my life. I fully understood what they were doing. I was out after a short stay but still scared for my life.
My mother lived with the threat of death hanging over her for years. Each day her heart became weaker, her treatment becoming more and more complicated. She had several short hospital stays. It’s sad to say that, when I lived away from Chicago, I did not always fly into town when she was in the hospital. I should have been there every time.
What was I thinking? After all, she had my brothers and sisters there. My behavior was not bad but was the actions of a busy adult woman who did not understand the full consequences of not being there for the ones you love. Time is irretrievable. There are no time machines.
The regrets come to you after the person you loved is gone — — I would have. I could have. I should have.
Thinking about my mother has made me much more communicative with my family. My children get a reading on my health whenever it changes in either direction: better or worst. No surprises.
My sister recently sent out an IMessage to our family group text that everyone needs to be honest about their circumstances no matter the state of those circumstances; especially their health.
I want no one else to have the dark regrets I have now.
Life is short. We get about one hundred years on this earth as this entity.
Don’t have regrets about what you could have, would have and should have done.
Live those hundred years helping those you love as much as you can.
I can be reached at https://www.tonicrowewriter.com/