I can relate. My mother was Army-raised, and during/after WWII, I know how important her behavior was on Base, as it reflected her father's respectability (especially when he was head officer on their base in Yokohama during reconstruction). So, I fully comprehend that, as she lived in a demanding environment as a child, the environment I was raised in was equally demanding, even though I believe she made a conscious effort to take it down a notch.
So, being aware of this, I have also been trying to take things down a notch in raising my own children. There are times that I actually compare myself to her and think, "Oh, no! Did I just say something my mother would have said?" In fact, to take stress off my kids, I don't even ask them their grades, as I see that they are already demanding with themselves, so I do not want to add to that stress. Instead, they willingly come to me with their grades, looking for approval and advice, which I take to be a good thing.
Having my mother on the other side of the world can be a blessing. However, when I go to the States, I have to live with her for several weeks. Of course, everything must be done on her terms, but her quarrels were never with me and always with my father.
Since my father's death, inevitably, the family dynamic has changed, and last summer I saw her pick fights with my sister, BIL and myself. And, after her sister's recent demise and death from Alzheimer's, I have started to witness other suspicious changes in her demeanor. Perhaps she is started her own decline? So, it is hard for me to now say whether it is her personality, perhaps affected by depression, or her physical state. The one thing I cannot get out of my head was how, this past August and in front of my children, she called me a "blonde bimbo" because I was dressed to go out. All I can remember is the wide-eyed look on my sons' faces. Was she intentially inappropriate, or was her brain chosing inappropriate words for "pretty"? Are her social filters shutting down? Either way, it is something I cannot tolerate in front of my kids this summer.