My Mother’s Gold Plated Hand Mirror ~
For as long as I can remember, Mom always had a special hand-held mirror that she took extremely good care of. I remember her cautioning me to not play with it or break it. She always wrapped it in a soft cloth before putting it in the bathroom drawer.
Along with her mirror, whenever we would travel (usually on a short trip “up home” to visit her parents) Mom would take her cosmetic case. Mom was so good about visiting her parents regularly and going through Grandma Milne’s home, cleaning it from top to bottom. It was just a small 2-bedroom home that didn’t take too long to clean.
This first cosmetic case was a red leather one. I think it was leather, back then you didn’t see the vinyl of today. Any time we traveled, Mom’s case was packed and came along.
Eventually, somewhere along the way, the red cosmetic case was replaced with a blue one. It became her standard “go to” case for traveling and, as with the mirror, she took good care of it and seemed to value it a lot.
As Mom aged and eventually began showing signs of dementia, later diagnosed as Alzheimer’s, I became her main caretaker. My first concern was Mom’s safety. She would forget to turn off the kitchen stove top when boiling something so, before too long, something had to be done about this situation. A simple solution involved removing the knobs on the stove. This frustrated her but was better than having her burn the house down. She was actually quite easy to manage; her irritations would soon be forgotten with a short ride in the car.
Eventually, one of my priorities began to be to help my mother retain her dignity. I thought to myself, “if I were in this condition, what would I want someone to do for me that I couldn’t do or would forget to do for myself.” Mom was physically able to do most things but her mind was not tracking on the things she once considered VIP, as in her personal hygiene. An old friend of my mothers has often mentioned how she would never see Mom outside the house with her hair not done up perfectly. Mom was not “over-the-top” into fashion nor beauty styles but she did always take good care of herself and her appearance.
This became my job. I felt like, as her daughter, I should try to keep Mom looking as nice as she always had, both in fixing her hair, doing her make-up and even keeping her toe and fingernails clipped and polished. I also made sure her under garments were clean and there weren’t any foul odors about her. I became vigilant in helping Mom maintain her dignity.
I hope if I ever get into that shape, my kids will do the same for me…or, more realistically, I hope that I won’t ever have to live through such a horrendous disease as dementia in the first place.
Moving on and getting to the point of my story, Mom’s condition worsened (as Alzheimer’s patients do not recover). I began taking note and categorizing which stage she fit into along this road to total memory loss. She never did get to the end stage of Alzheimer’s, although she did reach the end stage of life. Feeling through these last few years we were almost attached at the hip, it took awhile for me to free myself of the habitual thoughts of having to do these everyday things for my mother, even after she was gone.
For instance, after Mom died, I moved some of her things up to our very small home and stored them out in the storage shed my husband and I just finished building. I narrowed her belongings down over time, hauling many things to the second hand stores she had loved patronizing.
The one item I could not bring myself to get rid of was her blue, cosmetic case. I didn’t want it for myself. It held no worldly value or use for me as I had one of my own. So, I stuck it up on a high shelf in the bathroom, thinking, someday I will find someone to give it to. As things go, we ran into a situation where we had to de-clutter our little home very quickly to get ready for an appraisal we were having done. We really swiped it clean, ridding it of anything and everything that didn’t belong inside. In a quick decision, I got the cosmetic case down, put it in the car and hauled it to the second-hand store without a backward glance. There was a slight sadness in doing this but it took a back burner to the flurry of speed in which we were working to get our house in tip-top shape for the appraiser.
After getting rid of the cosmetic case, I tried to take extra special care of Mom’s gold-plated hand mirror. I even began using it myself to view the back of my hair. I would lay it in a drawer in the bathroom on top of soft wash cloths. Once while using it, I felt the handle kind of turn when I picked it up. Always too busy to “do it now” and a great one for putting off today what can be done tomorrow, I ignored the signs of the handle getting looser and looser.
Seven Years of Bad Luck
Today when I picked up the mirror, to inspect the back of my hair the whole handle fell off then next the casing holding the two-sided mirror together dropped off and in seconds, everything came crashing down on the floor around my feet. The magnified side of the mirror broke. Stunned at this sudden chain of events and then remembering breaking a mirror means seven years of bad luck, I stood there, aggravated at myself. The thought about the superstition was only fleeting of course. I’m not really a superstitious person. Who has time for that!
I scooped up all the parts and pieces of broken glass and threw them in the trash. I felt a sting of guilt in not taking better care of these prized emblems of my mother’s life. For a moment, guilt ridden and forgetting the past five years my husband and I had spent taking her with us on many outings and doing so many little things to add to her quality of life, I felt like I had somehow let Mom down.
After throwing the broken mirror away, thoughts began tumbling around in my head and I began forming a story in my mind that I wanted to put down on paper. I am sharing it on my blog for other care-givers as well as sons and daughters of healthy, elderly parents just to remind you to love them while they are with you and don’t let any guilt creep in, knowing you are doing all that you can do to the best of your ability.
Your best is always good enough.
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