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Mothering and Daughtering
By Kory Sessions-Riseley


(Page 1 of 3)

She is standing at the kitchen sink ready for church: flowered skirt, knit top, matching blouse, stockings, comfortable shoes, makeup. It must have taken her a good three hours, but she is ready to go. I catch myself as I am just about to say, “Wow, I’m so proud of you. You did it all by yourself.” Moments before, I had said those very words to my son, Madoc, about putting on his own shoes, and he’s two and a half. My mother just turned 75. “Wow, Mom” I say instead, “you look great. Let’s go.”  If someone would have told me I’d be living with my mother as I neared my thirty-fifth year, I would have shaken my head and laughed. No, you’re mistaken. Wrong girl.

I was the child she was going to raise “right.” The youngest of five, I internalized my mothers dreams of “success.” I worked in Hollywood, became an Associate Producer, went to Cannes, wore expensive sunglasses. I spent a lot of time on the phone with my mother telling her about who I had become, as though all of those things mattered to me. Secretly, I believed they only mattered to her. I was, if only for a brief time, the picture of her successful daughter. But the lifestyle really didn’t suit me. The long hours, the shiny, flashy, self-congratulating nature of the business was simply not me. So my husband and I moved north and started living our own lives. We renewed our vows. We made good friendships. We had a baby.

Fast forward years later, and I’m shaking my head. Not only is the fact that I live with my mother incredibly true, the other facts are these: she has Parkinson’s, I have a toddler, and this is a powerful time of learning for both of us.
I help my mother into the car and put her walker in the back next to my son. It’s less than a mile to the church, but once we get there, it’s still a long way until she can sit down again. We both take a deep breath.

 “Is church where people go when they’re sick?” Madoc asks from his car seat behind us. “No, Sweetie,” I say, “That’s when we took Grandma to the doctor’s office. Church is where people go to—“ I don’t know what to say. Our church is just one of the things we left behind in California and this rural Utah alternative doesn’t support any of my or my husband’s values. My mother chimes in, “Church is where people go to pray.” I’m grateful for the simplicity of the statement, and since prayer is a big part of our home life, my son is content with her response.

Sometimes I’m really patient with my mother, even playful. On this particular day I’m too tired to be either, so we walk silently to the heavy oak doors of the church. From there, someone will help her through the day’s busy schedule of meetings and lessons and worship. Then someone else will give her a ride home. I’ve left my son in the car and am feeling uneasy about it, so I’m short with her. “Bye,” I say, “See you at home.”

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