During the time that Mother lived in my home with me, she had a habit of hiding her fingernails from me, but even glimpses showed me that they were dirty and ragged. So after she repeatedly refused to let me trim them for her, I made an appointment for her at a nail salon. We did not have extra money, and this was something I had never budgeted for myself, but I did not want her to be unkempt or to suffer an infected hangnail.
Mother walked into the nail saloon docilely enough, and I told the staff to just give her a nice soak in the bubbles and trim the nails fairly short. I went to the other side of the room to get my first in life ever professional pedicure. I had barely sat down for it when several of the manicurists called me over to see my mother. They were a little wide-eyed when they gestured for me to look at my mother’s hands. She sat there distracted by the bright lights, the attention, and her dementia, so I was able to clearly see her fingernails. All were a little too long with broken edges, except for her right middle finger, that fingernail was filed to a long, sharp point. I had no idea what to make of that, and as mother did not seem distressed, she was often overwhelmed and oblivious in public even before the formal diagnosis of dementia, I had them continue with her manicure. She seemed happy enough with her manicure but after that she would let me do it for her when I warned her that otherwise we would go back to the nail salon. As for me, the pedicure was too expensive, and my own are much better, so that was something I did not repeat.
The year after Mother passed I was on bus tour when a stranger with whom I was sitting at the time pointed out that I had many small red marks incised into both of my arms. I had not noticed them before, and wondered if I had contracted some horrible skin disease. When I had a chance to examine myself and think it through, I realized that not only had I neglected myself during the years that I had provided the in-home care that my mother and father needed during the last years of their life, I had not seen that mother had cultivated that long, sharp fingernail so that she could scratch into my arms whenever I had tended her, bathed her, combed her hair, changed her diaper, dressed her, put food before her, handed her the television remote, helped her into her wheelchair, whenever she could. Under the duress of being her sole care provider, I had been oblivious to the damage being done to me.
It took many treatments to remove the little red scars on my arms, but they remain on my heart.
Caption: Oblivious To The Harm Done To Me
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018