INSPIRATION AND UPLIFTING MY HEART
This short story is about my mother, Ans, who is 77 years old and lives in the Netherlands. I guess it is also about me, or my relationship with her and how that relationship influences me in my everyday life.
My mother has been a widow for 20 years and she lives on her own in the southern part of the Netherlands. In January 2011, she had several severe strokes, which paralyzed her on the right side of her body. The strokes also caused some brain damage, which led to changes in her ‘emotional response regulation’ - to use medical terminology which seems somewhat cold. In other words, she went from being a socially active, independent older woman who was always busy helping others, to someone who can only get around in a wheelchair and who now needs the help of other people to get dressed or showered, or to get a freshly cooked meal. She spent a few months in various hospitals and when she was well enough, she could not return to her own house which was not wheelchair-friendly. She now lives in a small but beautiful apartment in an extended care (‘woon/zorg’) facility, where she can live as independently as possible but has the necessary help at hand on-site. She is lucky to live in a developed country with a good social welfare system, where such adaptations can be made relatively fast and smoothly.
Nevertheless, she is going through a very difficult, painful process of life change and apparent shrinking of her world. And we, her four adult children, who all live at least 2 hours travel distance away from her (and myself on the other side of the world…), are sharing some of this process of change and adaptation with her. We have more care-taking responsibilities towards her now and can no longer expect to see or interact with the (head)strong, independent mother she has always been. The brain damage has meant that she is less able to concentrate on anything for longer than a moment and she is also less interested in what happens in our lives and less empathic than she used to be. Yet she has been able to regain some mobility, using a walker or a ‘scoot-mobile’ (gofer) if she isn’t in her wheelchair.