Now, I am not a fashionable gal. I do not often shop (for me). But when I do, I veer toward classic and well-made. My big fear is that I will buy something trendy and continue to wear it, oblivious to the fact that a particular look has long since fallen out of style.
My mother was never a girly-girl. A tomboy growing up, later, she was – or saw herself – overweight, never particularly comfortable in her own skin. While she did not like shopping for herself, she did find joy taking me shopping, no matter the state of her finances.
It was the blind leading the blinder. I sometimes veered toward what I saw my friends wear. A pair of Z Cavaricci’s or Guess jeans. I might have even once owned a pair of Skidz.
As my mother’s illness was progressing, she continued to lose her ability to care for herself and her autonomy. She could not drive or properly manage her finances. But she found she could, for a while, control the amount of food that she ate. She ate very little and, of course, lost weight. Her claws would come out when anyone tried to coax her to eat more. At least, with food, she was in control, and she felt pride in her slimmed down body.
When we started preparing my mother for assisted living, my aunt helped shop for basics my mother would need and I purchased cutesy nightshirts that I thought would make her smile. We meticulously put name label stickers in all of her clothes.
Yet it seemed like every time I visited, she had less and less clothing. I ordered her sweaters and the khakis she loved from LL Bean. But most of it would disappear, lost in the laundry or ending up elsewhere. Her closet would include blouses from other residents in floral styles she never would have tolerated. Clothes would get discolored with bleach. No matter what I bought, she never seemed to have enough.
In my mother’s newer home, I no longer worry about the loss of her clothing. Recently, one of the aides told me that my mother needed almost everything in her wardrobe replaced. The combination of some weight gain and the use of bulky hip protectors made it tough to get her dressed.
I wanted to get her new clothing as quickly as possible. But it was the height of our busy summer and I could not figure out a good way to get shopping for her. Plus, I was at a loss. Where do you shop for slip on clothing? The focus is no longer on quality but on comfort. So I reached out to my good friend, Amazon Prime, and I ordered so many pairs of elastic pants, cotton shirts and nightgowns.
Large boxes and multiple packages quickly started arriving. While some of the articles of clothing met my expectations, other items disappointed. Some of the sizing was wrong. In my haste to take care of this before leaving for vacation, I accidentally ordered some XXL or larger items, way bigger than needed.
I felt like I failed my mother. Like I should have taken more time to get this right for her. I also felt saddened. Shopping with her used to be a joy. Shopping for her became one more reminder of how different our relationship is now. A chore, one more thing she cannot do for herself. My once-fiercely independent mother now relies entirely on the kindness of others.
Still, every time I visit with my mother, she looks comfortable, happy and somehow, well put together. While I may not have been able to assemble an appropriate full wardrobe on short notice, I can supplement from time to time, with a pretty cardigan or other item, carefully selected with love. I believe that there still is a part of her that appreciates it and I would love to bring more color to her life.