This Mother’s Day I spent all day cleaning out my mom’s apartment to help her move into Assisted Living.
…NOT something I thought I would be doing that day.
When I was packing her stuff, I found a photo of her I hadn’t seen before.
This is her, sometime in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s.
Eating fried chicken & drinking champagne in the Bermuda Triangle.
Chilling on the beach with no pants on.
Wearing a shirt that says “Avoid hangovers, stay drunk.”
Giving NO fucks, at all, whatsoever.
A look in her eye saying, “Soy Gorda ¿Y que?”
(even though she lost her native Chilean Spanish YEARS ago as a child…and really wasn’t gorda at the time.)
That look she has, which I believe this may be the ONLY photo capturing it (all the rest she looks like she is forcing cheesy smile)
That look showing her brash persona — no matter how destructive & selfish it can be — that has always been her appeal to me.
That has always been the part I’ve connected to the most.
There’s part of me that admires her for her unabashed hedonism.
Like it’s ALWAYS been part of the deal with her.
(and suddenly I can *feel* how my dad once told me he loved my mom and never stopped loving her even though he thought she wasn’t a “good” person.)
….and of course, there’s part of me that feels shame for taking on those parts of her, too.
Oh yeah, and she’d KILL me for posting this photo.
I don’t think there’s any other photo that encapsulates her more than this one.
The carefree indulgence intertwined with a deep self-neglect.
Not that there’s anything *wrong* with consuming either of those things, at all, or being gorda (“fat” in Spanish.)
….but I see this photo it’s the accumulation of ALL the poor choices she made leading to her health issues in the first place (before the cancer.)
I say that WITHOUT fat shaming / fat blaming — cuz that ain’t my style.
This is strictly about my mom & what I know to be true about her, how she is & her denial of her patterns.
…oh & by the way, what did I find when cleaning out her fridge?
Fried chicken in tupperware.
Tiny bottles of champagne.
Of course, right?
“Not even cancer could stop her,” I said to myself.
Right then & there I had a vivid, eye opening, painful realization of how much I can see myself in her.
So much more than I’d care to admit.
Like when I found Del Scorcho hot sauce packets in her car (which, of course, I immediately confiscated for myself.)
Scratch offs and Lotto tickets in the glove box (which, of course, I intuitively knew how to check to see if they’re winners after years of helping her do so as a child.)
Tons of plastic cutlery, napkins and takeout menus EVERYWHERE (which, of course, I saved…just in case.)
Don’t get me started on the bags of plastic bottles, mostly soda, she’d accumulated (which, of course, I knew the drill — where she’d want me to take them for money even after YEARS of having recycling pickup at my house.)
Oh and her radio was set to KDAY — who knew she was getting into West Coast gangsta rap?
So there I was, at the drive thru at In & Out a month into this ordeal, feeling sheepish af as I was realizing how much she has influenced my own habits & behavior.
Thinking to myself, as I used a nickel from the center console to play a scratch off I bought from her “free ticket” winning on the steering wheel…
“Oh my fucking god….
Am I turning into my mother?”
Of course I judge & shame her for her choices.
…because it only reflects my judgment & shame over my own.
She went to the hospital on April 12th after experiencing a fall when getting labs done.
While she was there, she developed sepsis after a simple procedure.
Back in October, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
We already were on the verge of having a falling out.
After years of feeling responsible for her, like I had to manage her emotions & be someone to her that was more akin to a spouse than her daughter.
Being on the meltdown rollercoaster with her for all of my life & taking on her shit as my own.
I was reckoning with a shit ton of trauma, pain & fallout from being toxically enmeshed with her for a lifetime.
When she messaged me to let me know she was in the ER, it was the day after I had broken up with my boyfriend of one year.
After that and a month-long ordeal of phone calls to nurses, doctors at the hospital.
Trying to gage her status, what was going on.
Making arrangements for her to move from the hospital to the nursing home finally to Assisted Living.
Her meltdowns ensued.
…… energetically my ass was whooped.
I didn’t burn out completely.
I didn’t fade away from my own life & my business.
I still showed up for myself, my clients & my purpose.
…without spreading myself TOO thinly.
Taking lots of breaks, drinking plenty of water & making decisions based on what aligned with my dignity — first and foremost — then hers.
At each turn, I chose to take care of myself & only do things I felt were absolutely needed.
I didn’t visit — because I knew it wouldn’t do any good & she’d get too emotional.
She was having daily meltdowns by the time she got to the nursing home, why shake things up when it didn’t need to be just to be seen as the “good” daughter?
I didn’t overload myself with responsibility — because I knew the consequences of doing so & I wasn’t having it.
She didn’t make a series of decisions beforehand that would have led to a better experience for her in an emergency situation — and it’s NOT my responsibility to pick up the slack for her.
I didn’t push myself to take on TOO much responsibility.
She was (& still is) in complete denial about her health, her condition.
I acknowledge I did swoop in to “rescue” her…
I picked out the Assisted Living facility after she left me 2 consecutive meltdown voicemails her second week at the nursing home.
Talked with the managers there, got her a deal reducing her monthly rent by almost $2k/a month with an upgraded room AND care.
THAT was my 3 step process — Public Speaking Mindset in motion, by the way — it’s not *just* for work/business — it’s a LIFESTYLE.
Because I used my voice when it mattered most…
To get shit done, without exhausting myself.
To take care of business, without burning out.
it wasn’t from a place where I felt like I “had” to.
I chose to.
I made that decision early on to only do what I felt was necessary.
…and for everything else? Let the pieces fall where they may.
Now, in any other circumstance, it would have been me who would have taken her home, *unknowingly* signing up as her caregiver (legally).
But you see, 4 years ago I had retained a lawyer for her to get a settlement after her neighbors’ dog bit her when she was living in Palm Springs.
(because god knows she would never do that herself. Have someone else be in her business? Never. She only waited for 11 years of separation to officially sign divorce papers with my dad because of that, but I digress…)
If it weren’t for that — being on my feet, taking the initiative, envisioning what health problems were going to inevitably happen before she turned 70 (which, she just did, last week.)
By knowing my mom SOOOOOO fucking well.
AND looking out for me NOW, back THEN, who knew full well by this point I’d be killing it with my own business and finally starting my OWN life.
Had I not negotiated a six figure settlement for her then.
…then I would have been the one to take her in, every single day, for the duration of her illness, as this was inevitable (it takes about 20 years for pancreatic cancer to fully develop.)
In most circumstances, it is the child who takes on that responsibility…right?
Not only that, but it is expected.
From the parent.
From the doctors, the nurses, the staff.
At every turn, I risked looking like the daughter who didn’t love/care about her mom when I wouldn’t take responsibility for her.
Who ignored her phone calls.
Who wouldn’t visit her.
Who wouldn’t sign her out of the nursing home out of guilt, taking on the responsibility of being her caregiver legally.
I chose to do that for the Greater Good.
To get her the care she needs.
….because I know, sure as hell, it won’t come from me.
Even if I *wanted* it to.
But I knew what I could do, what I do well, and what I wanted to do.
1. I wanted to use my voice & negotiation skills to get her the best care possible….
…because that’s what I’m fucking good at and I am living legend (thank you very much.)
2. I wanted to be in charge of her possessions and getting them either thrown away or moved…
…because I helped her move almost a dozen times over the years & it felt SO good being in charge of what was being thrown away — FINALLY.
So finally, after getting 50% of her stuff moved in through two car trips, bringing plastic bins I had packed for her.
(the other 50% has been thrown away / is being given away / sold / picked up — like hell I am moving all of that, lol.)
There I was.
Walking down the hallway of the Assisted Living Facility, past rooms where baby boomer regret hung out in the air like laundry on a drying line.
Fritos. Diet Coke and bananas in one hand. (her request.)
Her diabetes equipment in the other. (also, her request.)
The woman who I had made the arrangements for her move there happened to walk in her room right after I walked in.
I acknowledged what I was holding & the irony.
She laughed and said, “Why not?”
Why not, right?
Why the fuck not.
It reminded me of when my 80-something-year-old Grandma (dad’s mom) moved into Assisted Living…
…and all my Grandma wanted when we were able to take her out was Chicken Fried Steak at Marie Callenders or a hamburger at McDonald’s.
My Aunt, her daughter, would say…
“I used to argue with her about it but I don’t anymore. Who cares what she eats. She’s old and can go any day now. Let her live and enjoy what time she has.”
…and, in my family, enjoyment is indulging in things that aren’t good for you but give you that hit of dopamine (and/or adrenaline.)
Fast food, alcohol, prescription drugs, lotto tickets, slot machines, fighting, making a scene.
That is a cycle I am breaking in my own life — and it’s a fucking PROCESS undoing / unlearning that I am not even going to *pretend* is easy.
it’s fucking hard as shit, yo.
At the same time, I honor the shit show of my family & past.
I honor it *as* my past.
I am honoring it by posting this photo AND acknowledging what habits / patterns I have taken on that I am willing to change, but at the same time, knowing some things will NEVER change.
….because well, who *wouldn’t* want some fried chicken and champagne in one of the most mysterious, exotic places in the world?
Knowing me, I’d take the fried chicken in a conspiracy theory-laden locale in a heartbeat.
Hold the champagne for me though, please.
Make it a Dr. Pepper.