Sister K came to pick me up so we could do some Spring shopping together yesterday. Once I hopped in the car she proclaimed, “I want to call Mom.” So we called Mom. We put her on speakerphone and chatted with her en route to our favorite store. She felt like she was there and it made us feel like she was there too. We talked about what we were doing, our plans, what we were shopping for and what we had been up to all day. Mom said it had been a tough day because of her leg spasticity with issues that began in the morning. We listened as we always do, talked about it a little bit without getting too deep and then lightheartedly changed the subject.
I often wonder the best way to respond to my mom when she really opens up about her symptoms, when she really tells me how she is feeling. Do I tell my mom I understand even though there is no way to completely undertand. Do I pursue my first inclination to be the problem solver, the problem solver who often ends up putting her foot in her mouth. Or do I do what Sister K and I did, lightheartedly change the subject so she doesn’t have to think about it. So I don’t have to think about it anymore. This part is murky for me. Murky because I enjoy relating to people, understanding them and trying to help them. Murky because for the first time in my life I feel like I struggle with relating and I struggle with responding. Especially murky because it involves one of the most important people in my life.
I try to think of myself and if it were me with MS, how would I want people to react, what would I want them to say. The answer is I don’t know. I don’t know because I don’t even know how I want people to react or what I want people to say to me about my mom having MS. I seem to struggle with this because if they say one thing I wish they’d said something else, if they say this I wish they’d said that. Nothing is good enough for me so I wonder if my mom feels the same way. I have never asked, never thought to ask. I don’t know why. I wonder if she doesn’t know the answer either.
So what do I do while I search for the perfect response, I change the subject. I find a silly thing to think about, to talk about and to laugh about. We all laugh. Sister K and I take turns finding the silly change of subject and we laugh. During tough times we keep our conversations lighthearted. Senseless. Ridiculous. The more outrageous, the better. We pride ourselves on these silly comments, crazy conversations, strange phrases only our family understands. We use these as our crutch. Sister K and I use these tools to bring a smile to Mom’s face, we can see it in person and feel it over the phone. Laughing and smiling. Our family’s greatest weapons against a disease that is trying to attack our laughter and smiles everyday.