"Won't you let me buy you a pantsuit?", she would ask at least once and nearly a dozen times more as my birthday or Christmas approached. This was usually followed by the thinly veiled insult that "I could be such a pretty girl if I'd only do something with my hair". "I don't wear pantsuits", I would explain in frustration. It would fall on deaf ears. I figured out a long time ago that somehow I was doomed to disappoint my mother. Our fights in my adolescence were notable for their fury and in the amount of abuse we seemed so easily able to fling at each other. My father arriving home from work, already half expecting to be called in as referee, would encourage me to be a little more patient. I wasn't sure why she was so angry, I only knew it was an ever present companion just under the surface ready to flare at any provocation.
My mothers closet is full of gaily colored pantsuits in every color of the rainbow. I buy them for her at Macy's and offer them up one by one as small apologies for this life she now leads. Others dress her now and they rarely match the pieces correctly. This frustrates me as I know how much my mother loved clothes and how she always coordinated so well. I try to let it go. Her pantsuits are stained with food she does not eat. The food she spits out when I try to coax her into a spoonful. I do a complicated dance with Hospice. When she dips below a certain weight they will be called in. I arrive at dinner time and hold the fork or spoon to her lips. Months ago, I would silently and sometimes not so silently, plead with her to eat something....even one thing. Letting go is to let her decide. I plead no more. Eat nothing or eat something....I finally get it. This is not the life you would choose.