"When a star begins to exhaust its hydrogen supply, its life nears an end. The first sign of a star's old age is a swelling and reddening of its outer regions. Such an aging, swollen star is called a red giant. The Sun, a middle-aged star, will probably swell to a red giant in 5 billion years,vaporizing Earth and any creatures that may be on its surface. When all its fuel has been exhausted, a star cannot generate sufficient pressure at its center to balance the crushing force of gravity. The star collapses under the force of its own weight; if it is a small star, it collapses gently and remains collapsed. Such a collapsed star, at its life's end, is called a white dwarf. The Sun will probably end its life in this way. A different fate awaits a large star. Its final collapse generates a violent explosion, blowing the innards of the star out into space. There, the materials of the exploded star mix with the primeval hydrogen of the universe. Later in the history of the galaxy, other stars are formed out of this mixture. The Sun is one of these stars. It contains the debris of countless other stars that exploded before the Sun was born." -
This is the way I feel about my journey through the past 4 years of my life and from now on.
From the time I first bathed my mother while she was in hospital, held her in my arms as she cried out in confusion and despair of her dementia, put her into a home on a locked floor; dealt with mountains of paperwork to become her committee; her constant phone calls for me to come and see her and take her to live with me. I listened to her plaintive cries and watched her watch me as the elevator doors closed between us. And every now and then she would look straight in my eyes and tell me how much she loved me and appreciated me for taking care of her. Nurses and care aides would report to me who she hit that day or the tempers she would fly into. I had insomnia for 2 years. They told me she would deteriorate quickly. They were wrong.
She blows her nose in her hand and spits out phlegm on whatever is handy. So I keep kleenex handy at all times. In the early days, she would wander about without clothes. Now she wants to wear too many. Sometimes she can hold her pee when we're out and sometimes she can't. I've learned to ask her if she needs to go before we go out and if I forget, I guard her dignity as best I can or drop whatever I was doing and insist a retailer let her use the staff washroom. Sometimes I lose my temper with her. I feel bad about that and determine to work on my patience. She never takes it personally.
A couple of years ago, I took her for a walk in the sunshine down Robson street, a busy downtown street. A loving care aide had put little flowers in her braided hair and she was wearing an orange and white shirt. Coincidentally, I was wearing my favourite orange and white outfit so we matched. And as I navigated down the street with her, hand in hand through throngs of shoppers, I felt a huge wave of love and protectiveness over her. Tears flooded my eyes, my throat swelled up. I would do anything for her and if anyone trampled her, I would beat the living snot out of them. And then it hit me. This was how she must have felt about me when I was a little girl. This was the closest feeling and understanding of motherhood I had ever known.
It's a long ass story, but I had always had a difficult relationship with my mother. She used to drive me nuts. As difficult as it had been for me to deal with her dementia (I can't begin to comprehend her own experience of it), I have been given a gift of having finally achieved a loving and close relationship with her. And though it's still all about her in a way, I've developed great patience, strength, and maturity. Because her thoughts are muddled, she doesn't talk as much. I can't tell her my problems, but she still knows when something's wrong. She still tries to mother me. We spend more time together than we ever did when I was growing up. She still enjoys her booze. We laugh a lot.
And throughout all of this, my husband and I were trying to have a child. I know it would have given her great joy. But recently, I asked her what she thought if we were to adopt. She said, "Well, if you can't have your own, I guess that would be okay."
The whole experience of caring for my mum, infertility, the grief, even the marital problems, blah, blah, blah has caused this star to explode, to collapse. Infertility has scooped me out. Even though I'm off that train and hopped aboard another one, I can still feel the bruises on my heart. My innards have been blown out into space, but my hope is that with deep prayer and practise, I can transform my karma, connect with the stuff of the universe and create as many stars as I can. Be a star again. And not just any old star. But a Sun. Brilliant and fierce.