My mom has always been my best friend.

I’m not sure I want to share what I’m writing today.

I need to figure out what is causing my pain. I am slowly reaching within to understand it. I can say one thing, for sure. I cannot share this with my mother.

I will write and decide later on how much I can share. Part of my anguish about sharing is twofold. I want to help other sandwiches that might be grappling with this same issue. At the same time, revealing how human I am will destroy my image as the “perfect daughter.”

It was certainly no accident that I started to write about my mother and her ordeal on a respirator. I can see that by how I’ve been feeling.

I have so many pangs right now! However, it is true what I have discovered. Recently, I have felt so much joy. I walk around beaming sometimes. That is all new in my life. I have learned that there was no joy for me when I didn’t acknowledge my pain. I have to allow for my pain in order to feel better.

So I guess my emotions are simply “bubbling up.”

One friend of mine called my style of writing, “emoting.” For me, I feel as though I am an “emotional teakettle.” I have had the fire under me for a very, long time. My whistle blowing is a result of trying to hold it all in.

It has been unsettling for me to have my filters blown off. I have the insight to realize that this was necessary for me to heal. It will probably be temporary. I need to regain my behavior as an appropriate human, eventually. I have always been polite and considerate.

Today, when the director of my mother’s nursing home called to give me an update, I embarrassed myself. He told me there was no news about whether a room was available for her to move closer to where my father is. I brought up about how it’s been a month since I requested the feeding tube be removed.

I was told that the next appointment with a GI specialist would be two to three weeks. I listened and tried to explain that it’s been a month already. That didn’t help. Then I said, “Every day her quality of life is affected! I was with her in the bathroom. Can you imagine how it must be to have the tube hanging down getting stuck between your legs?”

I shared this with my husband. He is off work this week and available for me to complain to. He told me, “You need to advocate stronger. She shouldn’t have to wait. They can transport her! You should be able to insist on this!”

After he told me that, I didn’t feel any better. It only got worse.

I confided in him about something else. I was upset about something my mother said to me this morning. I told him how she upsets me a lot lately. Doesn’t he realize I know she can’t help it?

He was firm when he said, “You are wrong, wrong, wrong! You cannot be upset with her! What are you thinking? She is not your child to correct. She is older and she is only going to get worse!”

My husband always says things the way he sees them. That is why I married him – to balance out my emoting.

Releasing my pain

I reached inside to find my pain.

It started this morning when I spoke with my mom. I hadn’t written about the other day when I took her out to dinner.

I need to start with that.

I called her on the way to pick her up. I told her it would be around 5:30 p.m. Lately, she doesn’t remember what time I’ve told her I am coming. She was worried. She left me a lot of messages. She thought I had told her 4:00 p.m.

Now she wasn’t answering the phone. Did she go to the dining room to eat? I had told her I was definitely coming.

A moment later while I was still driving, she called me. She said, “You wouldn’t believe it, honey. I was waiting for your call. However, I was holding the TV remote because I thought it was the telephone!”

That was the first pang.

The second one was my sore back.

First, the lighter, transport wheelchair wasn’t available. It was not in her room. She was waiting for me in her regular wheelchair. I figured I was superhuman and could “handle it.”

I tried in vain to put it in my car. I almost hurt myself. I tried not to curse too loudly when I thumped my head on the open hatch. Calmly, I told my mom I would try to find a lighter, more portable wheelchair while she waited in the car.

I walked back into the facility, and looked for another wheelchair. A nurse pointed to one that was one folded against the wall. I pushed it to my car. Not only didn’t it fit in either, it was just as heavy. I was sweating buckets.

It was quite difficult trying to hide this struggle from my mother. I had my third pang when she said; “I am just so much trouble for my poor daughter!”

I realize I should probably purchase a portable wheelchair for her soon. I will ask my father to pay for it.

I ended up leaving the wheelchair in the underground parking lot. I would plan to help my mother into the restaurant another way.

I picked up my children, and my oldest son helped my mother into the restaurant using an aluminum walker. I was amazed that she did it. I felt like the mother of a toddler learning to walk. For my mother, it was an achievement like climbing Mt. Everest. We didn’t eat until almost 8 p.m.

I was starving, and I had a huge headache. But I smiled, and I was patient with my younger son who was feeling the same way.

I allowed myself to feel the pleasure of seeing my mom enjoy her grandchildren and the outing. That helped me so much.

Partial Recovery

Last night, I wrote about my mom. I wrote that she is recovering from her hospitalization. That is only partially true.

My painful realization is that she cannot recover from old age and it’s ravages.

Without feeling totally disrespectful to the mother that I love so much, I am writing about my desolate sadness of losing the woman who was my greatest source of support; my mother was my best friend.

She has incrementally faded from my world, and that has left me bereft and lonely. Through my darkest hours, I always knew how much I could count on her wisdom to comfort me. I’ve said this many times, “No one in this world will ever love me as much as my mom.”

Now I am her source of comfort. I am her sounding board; I am her savior. I am the parent.

It is a huge responsibility that I feel proud to accept.

But I am confused by this “other person” she has become. I’m frustrated that she says so many things that upset me.


Before: Every morning I would look forward to talking with my mom. I always had so much to share with her and I felt so loved.

Now: I feel guilty that I don’t have time. (Scratch that word, guilty!). I make time, but I am very careful not to share anything upsetting. My easiest form of conversation begins with the sentence: “Mom, what can I do for you?” My mom is always ready with her list. She wants me to bring things and make calls for her. Unfortunately, she often forgets what they are.

Before: When I was sad or unsure, I knew she would brainstorm solutions with me. She was sad along with me. I always felt better after talking with her.

Now: When she is sad and filled with anxiety, I try to encourage her to think positive. I promise I will solve her problem. She has faith and trust in me. But I become sad and anxious along with her. I feel the weight of the world after we get off the phone.

Before: We would go shopping together once a week. It was productive for me, and she enjoyed our time together. There were many items on her list, and the store checkers sometimes recognized us. I would hear, “The two of you are most certainly mother and daughter! It is so beautiful to see you together!”

Now: Only six months ago, we could still go shopping. However, her back would hurt her and she walked very, very slowly. I ran circles around her to grab the items on my list. I left her in one aisle, walked across the store and then returned. She tried not to complain about the severe pain in her back, but it was obvious. Now, she no longer has much of a shopping list.

Trauma Memories:

My mother and I had a wonderful shopping outing. I loaded everything into the trunk. My mother was on the passenger side opening the door. I put my key into the ignition. I looked to the door and she had disappeared. I opened the window and called out, “Mom, where are you?” There was no answer.

I leapt wildly out of my driver’s seat and dashed to the other side of the car. She was on the curb sitting there. She said, “I’m fine, honey. I just lost balance and came down slowly. Don’t worry, I’m okay.”

I smiled with relief. My heart felt like a train wreck, though.

The “Other Daughter”

Every day I was trudging into the ICU. I usually couldn’t sleep, so I was exhausted. I brought a blanket and pillow to keep in my car. I was prepared for those emergencies, and the possibility that I would be too tired to manage the whole day. I had a cooler with snacks to keep me going.

Sometimes, I didn’t even sign in. I used the same sticker from a prior day. No guard ever noticed. I felt panicky, like I was trying to delay going in, when I’d stop to get some coffee.

Before reaching the familiar, double doors, I’d pass a tiny waiting room. I could see other families, other faces there. Every face could tell a story.

It was there that I always saw the “other daughter.” She had the saddest eyes. Her hair was long and pulled back under a shawl. She carried the weight of the world on her shoulders, just like me. Her mother’s room was across to the left of my mother’s. This woman was often there with her father. He would not reply with anything but a gruff response when I’d say hello.

I never went into their room much. But it’s easy for me to picture her mother with her knees up. She had a trachea tube also. She was not very old, and that stood out for me. The other daughter told me her mother was an avid reader. Her world was shattered the day her mother was hospitalized due to a perforated colon.

Her mother was three days “ahead of mine.” When it came time for the trachea tube to be inserted into my mom, I spoke with the “other daughter.” She told me how the procedure went for her mother. When the weaning seemed excruciating, she understood what I was going through.

We both had our own worlds to live in. Our bubbles were touching.

One day, my good friend Janis, came to visit me in ICU. Perhaps because Janis was a nurse, she had no reservations about stepping into this ghastly stress pit with me. I could not hold a conversation while Janis visited me; I was busy wiping my mother’s forehead with a washcloth and adjusting pillows. I had to ask the nurse for ice and other items to help my mom.

Janis was also there earlier to visit the “other daughter” on the room to the left. They were mutual friends. Such are the coincidences in my life.

Although things were discouraging with my mom, the situation had not turned the corner to despair.

One day when I visited my mother, the other daughter’s eyes were more desolate than usual. The other daughter was processing the terrible news that her mother would not recover. It was simply “a matter of time.” I hugged her, and told her how sorry I was. I did not know her, and I have not seen her since this ordeal ended. Janis says she lives only a mile from me.

I continued my daily existence of trudging into the ICU. I wondered every day if the time had arrived for the “other daughter.” It made me even sadder.

However, she was still there day after day. This went on for over a week. I tried to speak to her father, but he would not even answer me gruffly any more. Now family members began to arrive and the ICU was crowded with her family. Young girls were at her mother’s bedside. She told me it was a religious custom that her mother would not die alone.

When the “other mother” died, I gave the “other daughter” the tightest of hugs. We were connected by our shared ordeal but now our paths were diverging. She was going down the path of bereavement as she planned her mother’s funeral.

I went back to the ICU to continue my vigil with my mother. I should have been celebrating my mother’s tenacity, but I was numb.

The other daughter would have given anything to be in my place!

I have so much pain for not appreciating my circumstances more!

I have this card in my drawer. I have a box full of more of them. I cry every time I read it.

© Judy Unger and 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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  1. Judy K. says:

    Janis gave me the information for your blog. I just read the section about the “other daughter”. Thank you for your compassion and caring. I am so glad that your mother is recovering.

    Janis also told me of your amazing story of life and self discovery. You are definitely an inspiration. If it’s not too personal, I would be interested in reading more of your blog. I got a journal after my mother passed and have been frozen and been unable to write. I think maybe now I can start.

    By the way, today would have been my parent’s 59th wedding anniversary.


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