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Mothering and Daughtering
By Kory Sessions-Riseley

(Page 2 of 3)

Each step she takes, each movement she makes, is filled with pain. She is slow. Unsteady on her feet. Walks with a walker around the house. Sometimes just taking a bath leaves her exhausted and she needs to rest before moving on. I wish she were better at asking for help. But I know it is hard. When someone needs help with so much, it is hard to keep asking. She chooses her moments carefully. Usually its when my husband or I get up from the couch to get something from the kitchen. On your way back, she might say, can you bring me a glass of water? I feel like such a heel wondering how long shes been thirsty. 

At other times, when I take over for her, fill up the bathtub or button her shirt fo her, I wonder if Ive just robbed her of something. Some nugget of dignity or self respect. Have I stepped in too soon? Did I just deprive her of the opportunity to learn some sacred lesson? The lesson of patience, perhaps, or of learning to ask for and receive help? Ironically, I find myself in the same predicament everyday as a parent. Teetering as I try to find the delicate balance of doing something for my son, or letting him do it himself. Most days I have no idea what Im doing and I just have to go for a walk or take a bath and start again in the morning.

On another day were at the local super-center. Madoc is in the front of the basket Im pushing. My mother is following behind in a motorized cart. Its a very slow process, shopping. Were looking for shoes and clothes my mother can put on and take off by herself. 

I do most of the cooking and we eat a lot more organic produce and fewer microwave dinners than she is used to. In fact, she has slimmed down so much in the two years that weve lived together that she looks like a little girl playing dress-up most of the time. Any clothes that do still fit, dont work anymore for one reason or another: too many buttons, zipper in the back, drawstring that requires tying. Basically, I realize as were inching down the aisle toward the womens clothing, were shopping for the same type of clothes I buy for my toddler. Clothes that are easily put on and taken off by fingers that dont have a lot of motor control or strength. Clothes that build self-confidence and foster independence.

Days like this require a sort of walking meditation: help my mother try things on, get Madoc a snack, go visit the goldfish in the pet section, breathe, then back to womens clothing to check on Mom, go through the grocery list, then to the checkout counter to pay the cashier, push the debit button, pick up the pen my son has just flung to the floor for the third time, breathe, go get the car, strap my son in his car seat, bring the car around to the store entrance, help my mother into the car, return the motorized cart, notice that my car is still leaking oil and is now smoking. (I had hoped that problem had solved itself last week, but apparently, its still there.) Breathe. The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. No one ever mentions the fact that the journey could be as simple as a trip to the local super-center.

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