Someone wiser than me recently made me stop and think. Wiser than me and more positive: “always find the positive” he kept saying, which is how I knew he was being positive.
He had been talking about a wonderful, heart-warming thing he’d done for his dying dad. A dad he’d had quite a bad, sometimes violent, relationship with. And it was such a wonderful thing he did, if you knew of it, you would weep.
I asked him about his motivation for his deed. Why had he gone to a considerable amount of trouble for a man who was often cruel and mean? Had he done it for his dad or for himself? For his mum perhaps? He said he wasn’t sure. Maybe for his dad, but as he thought about it, perhaps it was just for himself. Perhaps it was his way of saying goodbye, he said. Strong stuff and honest.
I had asked him because I too have a less-than-perfect relationship with my mum, and I too had done something for her recently; not a grand gesture, but an important thing. I consider that this woman ruined my life, and, because I can’t get over it entirely, and can’t forgive her, that she is still ruining it. So why did I do the important thing? My own analysis is that I did it because she is my mum, that I had to, that I did it out of duty. I also think that it’s the kind of thing anyone would do for anyone else, out of decency and compassion, humanity, if you like. But I didn’t feel that I did it out of love for her, as my mother. Our relationship has deteriorated to that extent.
If I’m honest, I harbour quite a lot of resentment about this situation. She was not always a good parent to me. She was unconcerned about the effect she had on my developing psyche, casually dismissing me, and now here I was looking after her in a reversal of roles.
So, I wondered to my friend, what if I didn’t feel this duty, what if I had left her to fend for herself, and not done the important thing? It would have made my life a great deal easier.
Well, the wise guy says, what sort of person would you be if you hadn’t done it? Fair point, I say, but I also think it’s fair to remove yourself from abuse, so it should also have been OK to have walked away, and say no, you didn’t help me, and didn’t care about the mess. But of course the problem there is that the timing was wrong. If I was going to disown her, I should have done it ages ago, not now she’s at death’s door with a brain full of holes. So if I hadn’t done the important thing, it would make me the same as her, and I’m berating her for that kind of behaviour.
And then the wise guy he came out with his pearl: “Perhaps that thing you did makes you a bit more at ease with dealing with the end. Perhaps making it easier for her makes it easier for you.” So everybody wins. Always find the positive.