When we moved to the annex I was prepared for Mom to have a level of disorientation. I was prepared for her to be anxious about this new place, to get lost in it, to forget where the bathroom was. I was prepared for her anger and sarcasm to come out. I was even to some degree prepared for the perseveration on the question as to what was happening ( although I do have to admit that answering the question “How long are we going to be here?” almost non-stop for the last two weeks on a never-ending loop is getting a little wearing).
What I was not prepared for and suddenly came to a realization of last night was that over the course of the next eight weeks Mom may, at some point, come to think of the Annex as her home and when we move back, we may go through the same confusion there as we are experiencing here.
We were talking for the one hundredth time for the day about the work being done at the Vicarage and how long it is going to take when Mom interjected a new question.
“Well do we actually own that house?”
It stopped me in my tracks and for a moment I couldn’t answer. Then the cold realization that we have seven more weeks for Mom to forget her home of the last fifty years settled in.
In order to tell you about this day, I have to go back about 36 hours to Sunday morning. It’s where the thread of this story began.
I got up at about 6, walked the dogs as usual and then started the morning out with prayer and some house work. Mom and Amanda got up, so I made the coffee and sat down to breakfast with them.
“What are you guys doing today?” Mom asked
“It’s Sunday. So we are goin to church.” Amanda returned.
Without missing a beat Mom replied, “Oh I meant to tell you, I got a call. Church is cancelled.”
Amanda and I smiled at each other and then I asked, “Oh? Who called?”
“God.” Mom returned with a dry smile.
Amanda and I laughed as I said, “Well I guess He would know.”
Mom has always had a sharp wit. It is sometimes even more spectacular now as her filters are going away. Church time came. We went to church without heeding God’s call. That always spells trouble. Trouble this day came at 5:30. My phone rang. It was one of our elderly ladies from church,
“It’s your bad penney.” she said. Then she went into a rambling explanation of how she was somewhere ,and her car wouldn’t work, and they said it was fixed now, and she supposed she could find her way home.
“Where are you________?” I asked her.
She handed the phone to a lady who explained that she was at a market in Pennacook NH, about an hour and a half from us.
Needless to say we were on the road in a matter of minutes. Our lady had gotten herself really lost. My GPS took us through deep woods and onto dirt roads until we found the little market where our friend was stranded.
When we arrived the sun was setting. Our friend was tired, scared and very confused. Her car was no longer driveable as she had hit either a really tall curve or a very deep pothole with it. The tow truck driver was pretty sure she had bent the rim and maybe even the frame of her car.
We got the car towed and drove our friend home. It turned out we had arrived just in time as our ride home was overshadowed by beautiful but rather frightening thunder storms, with lots of lightning and even more rain. I shudder to think about this dear lady caught outside in that!
Anyway we got her settled in for the night and then went home to close up The Vicarage.
This morning I set about making some calls to social services in my friend’s town. She is a widow without family and so we are going to build a safety net around her now to help her at home with quality of life.
At noon I took Mom to a Drs. appointment. The Dr. wants Mom to have lots of tests. Mom wants to have none. The Dr. wants to prolong Mom’s life. Mom thinks that the Dr. is barking mad. For me once again this is all about quality not quantity of life.
Both of these ladies are in their mid eighties. Both of them are in failing health. Both are looking forward to their home going. Neither wants to do anything to lengthen their days. For myself I think now is a season of ministry to both of them. It’s not about the number of days. It’s about the quality of those days. I hope I can make the time they have left here on Earth a little more comfortable and a little more pleasant.
Those who follow “Notes” regularly know that Brenda, Amanda and I are living in our ancestral home while caring for our Mother, Nancy (Amanda’s grandmother), who struggles with dementia.
In many ways this disease ( at least the stage we are in) reminds me of raising teen-agers. Mom has gotten very cheeky, and that leads to some very funny conversations.
One of the things we are working on with Mom is her diet. She does not eat very well, partly because of her teeth (the repairs to which are put on hold for the moment due to Covid) and partly because she has a sweet tooth that never quits. the 3P.M.-5P.M. hour is reminiscent of when my kids were teens. They would come in from the day and start snacking, to which this parent would say, “Don’t eat too many snacks. You will ruin your dinner.”
I don’t know if you have ever tried that line with someone over 80 but if you do you are likely to get a response like I got yetserday….
Scene is the Vicarage Kitchen and living room.
Mom eats a Swiss roll at three.
At four she eats an ice cream sandwich
J. Says- Supper is in a little while Mom. Don’t spoil your dinner.
Mom says- I won’t. I am just really hungry now.
J says- Do you want me to fix you a sandwich or something now?
Mom says- This is a sandwich.
J rolls his eyes.
After her ice cream sandwich Mom takes a brief nap and wakes up around 5P.M.
J says- Would you like me to fix you something for dinner?
Mom says- No. I am not hungry.
J says- OK, let me know when you are hungry ,and I can fix you a plate.
20 minutes later Mom comes out of the kitchen with A NUTTY BUDDY!
J says- Mom would you like me to fix you something for dinner before you eat that?
Mom says- No. I want this.
J says ( a little exasperated)- Mom you need to eat something more than sugar. You have been eating sugar all afternoon.
During this corporate season of prayer I have filled my journal with hundreds of entries from my personal prayer times. Here is one of the thoughts I have been contemplating since Jan. 26.
“We are only empty vessels. The sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can stop trying to accomplish things in our own power and we can allow God to fill us and flow through us with His power. In His power we can accomplish eternal things if impossible magnitude.”
I am aware that God is bringing me into a place where I recognize my powerlessness. This sense of my own fragility is the key to operating in the supernatural power of the Living God.
Are you becoming aware that you are not equal to the task in front of you? What is your answer to it?
Dear Evan Hansen is one of my favorite musicals. It’s a modern day commentary on: family, peer pressure, truth telling, rejection, fatherlessness, and well so many other things.
A few days ago I was working on the church’s prophecy board (more on that another time) when I just felt I had to listen to the music from the musical again. I knew as I did, it was God telling me He was going to reveal emotions I was not being honest about.
So many of the songs resonate with me even as a pastor/prophet. This time, though, the songs that hit me hard were “So Big So Small” and “Does Anybody Have a Map”, which are the mother’s songs from the musical.
In the middle of both songs I began to cry. SUPER UNEXPECTED! I actually closed up shop and went home because I couldn’t take it anymore and I couldn’t figure out why. The next day I told Amanda about it and then I played the songs again for her and… Yep!…. You guessed it. I started crying again. I realized I had work to do.
I have spent many hours in prayer over this and I think I have a bit of revelation. I am relating with this lady…not because my son is in trouble but because Brenda, Amanda and I are becoming parents by increments to my mom.
It has hit me that Brenda will soon be heading back to her mission, I think I am afraid of this. When Brenda goes back to The Netherlands I will be a “single parent” : I will make the meals. I will pay the bills. I will make sure Mom takes her showers. I will do the doctors and the dentist appointments. I will do the laundry and…. and….and….and … this house seems so big and I feel so small.
Here in America, we are celebrating Mother’s Day. We have two Moms to celebrate today.
This is Melanie’s first Mother’s Day. Since she lives an hour away and since church and lunch for Mom will keep my day pretty busy through day’s end, I will not get a chance to see her until my day off tomorrow (weekends are not weekends for pastor’s they are more like Thursdays and Fridays). I am looking forward to spending time with Melanie, her husband James and my granddaughter Dani.
Mom does not go out anymore. I don’t mean by that, she is a happy homebody. I mean she doesn’t like to go out on the front porch for more than a few minutes. Getting her to sit on the lawn for a midsummer’s picnic is major event and going to the doctor is something we have to begin talking her into two weeks in advance. So for us Mother’s Day is going to be low key.
I remember my grandmother (Mom’s mom) went through this as her mind weakened in her later years. I am watching as my aunts go through this same thing and as my cousins fight to keep their moms from becoming total recluses. It is one of the many facets of this disease that is very hard to watch…the disconnection from the world.
Part of working through this process of slow loss is in embracing what is in the moment and making that special. We may not be able to take Mom out for dinner or to the beach or on any other family outing but that doesn’t mean we cannot celebrate. Brenda, Amanda and I have decided, we will bring in Chinese food and then later go pick up Sundaes from the local ice cream stand she loves so much and bring them home. If it stops raining I may even get outside and get some more of the yard done so that even if she will not go out and sit in it she can view it from the window.
Our family is one of the many coming to terms with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It is not the easiest of walks but we are blessed to have Mom with us for this year long experiment of complicated living.