The afternoon breeze swirled about her delicate body. Her long, lustrous blonde hair flowing in the wind caught the attention of the maintenance men mowing the grass in the garden surrounding the nursing home. A gorgeous woman in her early thirties.
She approached the entrance door. I glanced at her from my office window that faced the facility main door. My gaze fixed on the visitor. The woman walked elegantly, as if modeling her white causal suit, perfectly complementing her golden stilettos.
My phone rang shortly after the woman had entered the facility.
“Yes, Lisa?” I answered to the receptionist.
“Ms. McLaren’s daughter, Laura, is here to see you.”
“Oh!” I blinked. “Laura, the daughter who lives in New York!”
Ms. McLaren was a new resident in the nursing home. She had lived alone in her own home, until a recent incident in which she was found by a neighbor, lying on the floor in her garage. Ms McLaren had apparently fallen, and hurt her foot. She was unable to move to seek help and remained on the floor for several hours.
Ms. McLaren was often confused. She had history of Alzheimer’s dementia, according to the medical records. Until the incident she had managed to live independently, driving and taking care of her personal affairs. After that, her physician recommended that she have twenty-four hour care and supervision.
“I’m glad you came to see your mother,” I told Laura.
“I know she can no longer live alone.” Laura said, her tone revealing her sadness. “I knew there would be a time we’d come to this point. I tried many times to convince her to come and live with me, but she always refused.”
“It seems that this is the right time.” I said, optimistically while leading Laura toward her mother’s room.
I watched as Laura visited with her mother. Their encounter was cordial, not warm as I had expected. Ms. McLaren was uncharacteristically outspoken and sarcastic.
“Now what?” Ms. McLaren glared at Laura. “You have a busy life. I can take care of myself.” Ms. McLaren’s tone was harsh.
I left the room to leave them in privacy, hoping that mother and daughter would be able to come to terms—as it was evident that there was a great deal of animosity between them.
The next day Laura unexpectedly stopped by my office. I glanced twice at her, trying to make sure she was the same woman I had seen the day before. Today she wore no make-up. Her hair was tousled, and she wore baggy sweat pants, a t-shirt and tennis shoes.
She reminded me of the Cinderella story, but in reverse. But more amazingly, I noticed that her face and lips showed clear signs of cosmetic surgeries that would have been easily covered with cosmetics.
What’s going on? I pondered.
“There are some things you need to know,” Laura said, gently. “My mother has always been abusive to me, my entire life, since my first memory.”
I paid close attention to Laura’s words, and relinquished my resistance of showing sympathy. My heart reached out to her as she described in detail the challenging life she had with her mother.
“I had no self-esteem. I always felt like a looser. I underwent multiple cosmetic surgeries, trying to look ‘pretty’ as my mother always made me believe I was ‘ugly.’ I never married as I could never manage relationship with my mother’s constant demeaning comments of where it would ultimately go. I was close to committing suicide until I finally realized I needed help.”
I continued listening to Laura. I couldn’t find comforting words to say even if I felt it were appropriate to say something. I was clueless about Laura and her mother’s past issues.
Laura told me that she underwent psychotherapy for many years, in which she began to finally understand her personal and psychological problems and, more importantly, how to cope with these problems. Later, she initiated her own business as an interior decorator, and relocated to the East coast where her career and life began to thrive.
“She is my mother, and I cannot turn my back to her.” Her sullen eyes began to spill tears that she gently swept away with the back of her delicate hand. “I have forgiven my mother a long time ago, and even if she continues to speak hurtful words, all I feel inside me is compassion. Compassion because she had a traumatic childhood as well, worse than mine.”
Laura’s green eyes shone as though two suns rising in a warm summer morning. I saw her real beauty, beyond the cosmetics and skillfully crafted facades.
Her inner beauty.
Laura’s heart had healed, and her wise words lead me to think that she had waited for that moment to return to her mother. This time, to take care of her.
The next morning, Laura and her mother stopped by my office.
“Thanks for everything,” Laura said. Ms McLaren smiled, but remained quiet.
Laura wheeled her mother to a shuttle parked in front of the main entrance. They would head to the airport, to catch their flight to New York.
That was the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. The chapter of a mother and daughter’s reconciliation, I hoped.