An old man, his horse, and my mom

There’s a parable about an old man whose horse runs away.

“What a terrible thing,” the village people say.

“That’s life,” says the old man.

The horse returns and brings with it three mares.

“What a wonderful thing,” the village people say.

“That’s life,” says the old man.

The old man’s son tries to tame one of the mares and is thrown. He is permanently injured and can no longer walk.

“What a terrible thing,” the village people say.

“That’s life,” says the old man.

An invader attacks the country and all of the young men are conscripted into service, except for the old man’s son, who is lame.

“What a wonderful thing,” the village people say.

“That’s life,” says the old man.

For me, the point of this story is that what causes you pain at one point in your life can be a source of salvation later (and vice versa). I’m thinking about it as I try to care for my mom with Alzheimer’s Disease.

When I was a child, my mom never wanted to face problems. She thought you should make the best of everything, no matter how bad.

“Mommy, I’m upset. Debbie took the remote control from me.”

“Just ignore it and make the best of it,” she said.

“Mom, I can’t stand my science teacher.”

“Tell yourself you love her. Make the best of it,” she said.

“Mom, someone stole my bag.”

“That’s terrible. Well, it could have been worse. At least you’re not hurt,” she said.

Not only did I feel my mom was trivializing my pain, but she was discouraging me from taking action, when I could, to improve a situation. Could anything be more unhealthy, I wondered, than her maddening belief that feelings should be denied and problems left unaddressed and swept under the rug?

But now I think her approach is serving me, and I’m almost grateful that it’s so deeply embedded in her brain that she’s carrying it into her Alzheimer’s years.

I talk to so many people in my situation who have ongoing trouble as they try to help their  parents live with dementia. The parents continually complain, sometimes belligerently, about losing control of their lives (which is understandable). But it’s different for me.

Most of the time, my mom tries to make the best of her new life in an assisted living facility.

“It’s pretty nice here. It really is!”

“The food is fine.” (It really isn’t!)

“There’s a woman here who I don’t like, but I’m not going to let her bother me.”

Certainly, she gets upset about losing her memory. She gets sad and lonely. Sometimes she says it would be better if she would die. But she always ends the conversation with, “Don’t worry about me. Please, don’t worry. I’ll be ok.”

She is taking care of me, in her way, by trying to make the best of her situation. What seemed to hurt me as a child is helping me now.

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About daughter3

My mom has Alzheimer's disease. She's 88 and lives in a nursing home. She has three daughters. I'm her youngest.
This entry was posted in Alzheimer's and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to An old man, his horse, and my mom

  1. Mia says:

    Your mother sounds so sweet and brave. In the end, you are indeed lucky.

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