99: Like Mother, Like Daughter

99: Like Mother, Like Daughter

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: For Mom, with Love

Like Mother, Like Daughter

And mothers are their daughters’ role model, their biological and emotional road map, the arbiter of all their relationships.

~Victoria Secunda

I can still remember the day my mother came home from the hospital after her first operation. It was a sun-filled day, the weather at odds with the atmosphere in the house, which was morbid and tense. I had just left college to become my mother’s full-time caregiver — a decision I was already beginning to question as I surveyed the volume of medical supplies that had accompanied my mother’s return. It was daunting to be faced with the prospect of looking after someone who had looked after me all my life.

With one operation down and three more to go, my mother was already unrecognisable to me. The warm, plump woman who had raised me had been replaced by a pale waif-like creature. The pain and stress had dulled the brightness in her eyes, and her trademark dimples had disappeared in her sunken face. Fragile had never been a word to describe my mother, but now it defined her. For the first time, the enormity of what I had taken on struck me.

The first few weeks were the most difficult. Like a newborn, she required constant care and attention. Her wound had to be dressed every day. She couldn’t feed herself, clean herself or even get out of the bed.

I wasn’t sure how to cope with this role reversal. I was so used to my mother being the caregiver, the provider, that I couldn’t bear to see her so weak and helpless. I really didn’t know how I was going to cope. However, nothing tests character like necessity. It turned out the thoughts of being responsible for my mother’s health were far more challenging than the reality. Over the next few months, my mother slowly began to improve. Under my care, she began to live again. I watched the twinkle come back into her eyes as she regained the strength to do small things for herself. We celebrated the little things that we had previously taken for granted — simple things like when she finally had the strength to lift a teacup to drink by herself or when she could sleep through the night without waking from the pain.

One of the happiest days was a sunny day in July. It was a couple of weeks after her final operation, and her recovery had been slow and complicated. When I brought the breakfast tray down to her that morning, she turned to me and said, “It’s a pity to be stuck inside on such a nice day.” I bundled her up in a scarf and coat and brought her outside.

I will never forget the look of pure joy on her face as she looked up at the blue sky. It was the first time in a year that she had been able to go outside and enjoy something as simple as the heat of the sun on her face. She looked at me, put her hand over mine, and smiled — a smile that said much more than words could express. In that moment, I realised how much I had gained from becoming a full-time caregiver for my mother. I had become more mature and responsible, and I had discovered strengths that I never knew I had. Our relationship had evolved from the traditional one of mother and daughter. I gained a newfound respect for my mother. Through caring for her, I learned to appreciate how wonderful she really is. Her remarkable inner strength, her uncomplaining nature, and above all her ability to smile through the pain are qualities that I can only hope of inheriting.

Caring for my mother has been a turbulent journey full of both tears and laughter. Although we both felt like giving up at times, ultimately, it has brought us closer together and allowed me to count every day we have together as a blessing.

~Anna Fitzgerald

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