Yesterday as I wrote about respect and autonomy in the caregiver role, I tried to recall the moments that made this especially important as I took care of my mom. I’m sure they were numerous, but a few particularly stand out.

Respect and autonomy aren’t necessarily easy tools to hone and use. My mom and I had years of practice learning each other’s nuances after my father passed on when I was little. In those days, society didn’t give much attention to things like “single-parent households” and when it did concern was primarily targeted on families hit by divorce. This lack of consideration provided ample room for a mother and daughter to learn how to negotiate challenges and trauma mainly on our own. Our community was huge in our success, but daily living required trying to understand each other. 

So when it came about that I was more involved in my mother’s care, it must have been a more natural role than it otherwise would have been. As I look back on it, I know it was pretty seamless. Again, I came into the position when “caregiver” wasn’t a “thing” and the term “sandwich generation” was more a trendy topic than anything anyone understood with all of its ramifications.

Since my mom passed away, every Thanksgiving I am given to thinking of her pie making. She was a tremendous cook. Nothing fancy usually. Just good food for her family. Her pies were always a favorite through the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

There was one Thanksgiving when my niece was visiting.

We both loved mom’s Pineapple Cream Cheese pie. Oh, my! This Thanksgiving with my niece visiting meant I had competition in getting to the pie first. It was after we playfully “fought” over who was going eat it all first, that mom commenced to making us each our perfect pie.

Just before the last Thanksgiving for which she baked, she had her seventh heart attack. She was in the hospital a few days, and as the holiday neared, she became insistent on leaving the hospital. Her doctor, bless his soul was insistent on her staying. I had Power of Attorney, so I had a side to take. I supported my mom’s wishes, and she signed out AMA (Against Medical Advice).

You see, my mom wanted to be home baking. Her heart’s joy was standing at the kitchen counter, looking out the window at her beloved lake, rolling out piecrusts for her family and filling them with love. It wasn’t in a hospital bed with people poking her, feeding her yucky food, and controlling her every moment within the confines of the four walls of her hospital room.

I decided to support her because I knew she knew herself. I knew that rolling out piecrusts was good exercise and that she would take her time, working at it as she felt moved to do so. Moreover, I knew that with her health status, it was important to respect her decisions. She was quite capable of making them. If she died making those pies, then I knew she would die happy. I would live with peace in my heart that I had shown her respect and honored her with autonomy over her destiny.

That last line is where the selfishness comes in of which I spoke in my previous post. Although, I’d instead prefer to think that it was a mutual love born of a symbiotic relationship which had taken time to develop. After all, you can’t give without receiving, and you can’t receive without giving. Isn’t that the foundation of life?

That Thanksgiving mom made seven pies. We each had our favorite pie.