Discover more from Mortality Musings by Carole Silvoy
Losing An Anchor
Love and Loss and Parents
There are places and things that resonate in our hearts and minds. These can carry through our lives as touchstones on our journey to who we become and how we choose to live our lives. People, though, are perhaps the biggest connectors to our past, our Anchors. The rich shared experience and history with our Anchors can inform our choices and sustain us in good times and bad.
Anchor has different meanings. As something that keeps us in one place it’s a hindrance, and pulls at us, tying us down and keeping us stuck. But an anchor can also be something that keeps us moored to the things we love, the things that are true, and who we are, when the world and life seem to be blowing us off course.
When death approaches, as it always must, we come face to face with the impending loss of these important people. There’s grief in even contemplating them being gone. The prospect of being without our Anchor makes us feel we will become unmoored from them, from our life, even from ourselves.
I haven’t been around much here on Substack because there’s a big transition happening in my life.
Mother has always been there, not just as a parent but as a friend and mentor. Full disclosure : we three siblings as well as our non-biological sister have always called her Mom, but some years ago she mentioned she liked the title “Mother”, as she always called hers. So here I lovingly honor that preference. She’s the person who has known me since my existence began with my first breath. I’m very lucky because I grew up in a happy home, and have always had good close relationships with my parents and siblings. We didn’t have a lot of money, and life wasn’t without its struggles. Mother has dealt with mental health issues all her life, and Bipolar Disorder loomed large in all of our lives. In fact Mother was a true mentor for me when I developed Bipolar at age 39. (Both Mother and my paternal Aunt had the disorder, so it was a bit like waiting for the other shoe to drop, seeing whether I had it.) I knew that she understood deeply what I was going through and her example let me know I’d come out the other side. When we were growing up Mother’s depression was difficult for all of us, but I must say that her Manic episodes could be rather fun! And when, most of the time, she was in balance Mother was just a lovely person - deeply caring, very intuitive, and intensely curious and intelligent.
Mother was the anchor for the family in tandem with Daddy, and they were an inseparable team. They met when she was 13 and he was 16, and their hearts never parted. They even shared the same birthday, January 15th. When they met and began to get to know each other she asked him “when is your birthday?”, and he replied that it was January 15th she replied “No it’s not! You’re teasing me, someone told you to say that!” He told her “No, I’m not teasing” (although she’d learn he could be a great tease!) “It really is my birthday, January 15th. Why?” “That’s my birthday too!” And from then on they shared that and everything else in life.
My parents’ marriage was such a strong foundation, established in the 1950’s and born of the examples of my grandparents, all of whom were married for life with truly happy partnerships. They really gave us such deep roots to ground us along with the confidence and encouragement to go and make our own lives. When Daddy died in 2010 after COPD wore him down, things changed as Mother had to be a single in life for the first time in 60 years. But she was still the base for the family even as the dynamic changed and we kids became her support as much as she was ours.
In the past five or six years Mother’s health and cognition have been declining. When she moved back here in 2012 from Florida in order to be closer to us kids and family, she settled into a really sweet life. At the age of 76 Mother’s little apartment was just the way she liked, a dollhouse, small and full of her treasures. The community was great and she fit right in with the social activities, choir, excursions and celebrations. But things began to change, her needs became different and we wanted her to be safe. In November 2019 she finally took medical advice and made the decision to move into Personal Care from her little apartment. It was such a time of grace because had she been in her apartment when Covid 19 happened a few months later, we don’t know what we’d have done. We got a device that’s like a combination tablet and mobile phone for seniors, and we are able to have video calls with her everyday. The Quarantine brought on a faster decline as her social life stopped and we couldn’t be with her for such a long time.
On Christmas morning 2021 I received a 5 AM call to go to the ER as Mother was having a stroke. It didn’t seem too terrible, but we’ve learned there are no “small strokes.” Something gets lost, almost intangible things seen only in retrospect. Personality shifts, memories that are not just hard to access but go away completely. The upshot of all of this is that at 87 Mother is no longer the anchor in my life of which I had always been so sure. I think it was about 18 months ago that I said to my husband with tears that “I can never go to my Mother with anything that’s on my heart, ever again.” Losing that was heartbreaking. It still is.
In recent years and months the roles have slowly reversed, and the shift is complete. My siblings and I come together to be the anchor points for Mother. Everything is even more focused on her needs and comfort and contentment. With Mother in a deeper decline our family finds itself reckoning with the nearer surety of a future without her. One of my strengths that makes me a better Doula is that I can see the big picture and walk with folks as they face big transitions. I listen deeply and hold space with them and their feelings, with what lingers on their minds and hearts, and help them know they aren’t alone. But here it’s my Mom. I can’t be my own Doula, and I can’t be that for my siblings either. I can only be a daughter and sister and be sure I reach out to the Doulas in my life to work through this transition.
There’s no “advice” here except perhaps that when you are facing transitions of loss such as a parent, leaving a home, losing an animal companion, a change in job or relationship, you don’t have to do that alone. When a loss looms and you are grieving what will be gone, that is Anticipatory Grief. Again, having a space to have that grief and incorporate its sadness and its beauty into your life is invaluable.
I’m working through this transition time, and I don’t know how much of that will come out in writing, but let’s find out together.