On regrets

by mymothersbrain

It finally happened: my mother is hearing and seeing her dead parents. A few days ago, my sister walked into Mom’s bedroom and Mom said, “Why didn’t you let my dad come in? I heard him talking to you.” My sister said the wisest thing possible: “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t let him in because I thought you were asleep.” And that was that, though I’d long hoped to never arrive at this point. I wasn’t ready for. Am not ready for it still. The fact is that I’ll never be ready for my mother’s disease to worsen.

Because she seems more and more prone to confusion, our holiday plans are in flux. I’ll be away from my house for more than half of December in order to care for her, so this morning I found myself wondering if it’s even worth putting up a Christmas tree. Oh sure, it will brighten our housesitter’s stay. And it will make me happy to see the candles, the wreath, the lights during the time I am home. But it’s a lot of work and frankly, it can be easier to let myself sink into a funk. Probably — because right now I still have a reserve of emotional energy — I’ll buck up, we’ll buy a living tree like we did last year, and I’ll be happy to have a tree to plant come Spring. Life is too short for regrets, I remind myself, though there are times when I can’t help but feel the pain of missed opportunities.

For instance, I just published a piece in the Texas Observer about wanting to take my mother to her Mexican hometown a couple of years ago. I’d hoped to do so before Alzheimer’s completely took over her mind. The border violence made a trip impossible. (Here is the story: http://www.texasobserver.org/dateline/hometown-exile) For a while, just thinking about all the empty reasons I hadn’t thought of doing this before, when she was well, was enough to make my stomach hurt. But I can’t live with a chronic bellyache. I had to let go.

As far as moments of regret are concerned, I’m sure I’ll always find them. The bigger challenge is how to recover from them. Hopefully, I’ll learn to do that better.