My Mother, The Stranger

Marcia Purse Health Guide
  • After my father died in 1996, I asked my mother if she'd like me to come and live with her. Her face lit up and she said, "Oh, Marcia! I wouldn't have to give up the house!" It took me awhile to tidy up issues where I was living then, in another state (including selling my house), but not quite a year later I arrived on Mom's doorstep. It was her birthday. A block away from home I had stopped and wrapped ribbon around myself and put a bow on my head. I was her birthday present.


    We had a great relationship. Her friends marveled because we got along so well. I took over things Dad used to do, like paying the bills and dealing with repairmen. I was able to work from home. Things weren't perfect for me - mostly because of my bipolar disorder that frequently put me into depressions or hypomanic spending sprees - but Mom and I were fine together.

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    Then in September 2005 she needed surgery. And then 3 more surgeries. She spent three months in a nursing home in rehab to get strong enough to walk again. I visited her almost every day and cheered her as she worked hard to get better. But three months later, two more surgeries.


    And a few months later, she started a rapid descent into Alzheimers. Gone was our wonderful rapport. My mother became a raging, shouting, anxiety-ridden monster. She screamed for me at least 50 times a day, day and night. If I didn't go to her in answer to a shout at 2 a.m., she would come to my door and shout my name at the top of her lungs.


    Finally I started screaming back. I hated her. I hated myself. She wasn't my mother any more. My mother had abandoned me.


    She went into a nursing home in hospice for the last 5 months of her life. I never visited her. I couldn't. I'd cried almost hysterically every time I'd seen her in the hospital, because she wasn't my mother, she was an ugly vicious stranger. I never saw her again.


    It's almost 5 years since she died and I'm still dealing with all that anger, hatred and guilt. Now I have a new therapist, and today we dived into the Mom issue.


    It's easy to talk about. The story doesn't change. Things became awful, I hated Mom, I hated myself, and after her death I could hardly remember anything about her beyond those hellish 6 months before she went into hospice. Therapy since then helped me remember some better times, but the anger, the hatred, the guilt are still there.


    But one story is different. During the years before her illness, my brothers and I had given Mom two leaping tiger figurines, and she adored them. One night, though, as she sat watching TV, her eyes alight on them, and she screamed. They were snarling. She was terrified of them. I had to take them away right then and hide them.


    Telling my therapist that story made me cry.

Published On: November 13, 2012