Friday, January 16, 2015

The little surprises…

I’ve been sick.  For over two weeks now I’ve been stuck at home.  It was nothing horrible like the flu but a sinus infection that decided to take my asthma out to play.  That means no visits to Mom for that time also.

This morning I was finally able to visit.  Mom was sleeping soundly in her wheelchair when I arrived, holding her baby doll on her lap.  I gently checked her over, inspecting her hands, her ankles, and rubbing her back so that she would slowly wake up.

When she awoke, she looked at me with that little look that says hello, whoever you are.  She asked me about the baby seemingly thinking I was there to see it.  When I let her know I was there to see her, she shrugged and started telling me about the baby.

She started removing the baby doll’s pajamas so I got out some clothes and helped her put the clothes on the baby.  As we worked, I talked a bit and called her Mom.  Her response?  “Well, I don’t know about that.”  :)

Our visit continued with Mom dozing off and on.  At one point she awoke and I took the opportunity to show her the pictures that I always go through of Grandpa and Grandma and so on.  She knew them right away as she quite often does but today she surprised me!  When I brought up the picture of her aunts, she immediately pointed to each one and said, “That’s Aunt Sattie and Aunt Emma and that's me.”  Wow!  That hasn’t happened in a very long time!

I continued through the pictures and she pointed here and there at herself as a small child.  I couldn’t tell if she recognized herself as a teenager or in her wedding picture.  When I got to the last, the one of our family when I was little, I pointed and said the name of each family member and she just smiled and nodded.  I couldn’t tell if it was registering or not.

A short while later it was time to take her into lunch.  Once there, she was trying to look back at me to see who had wheeled her in so I got down where she could see me and she smiled and said, “Oh, you’re mine.”

The mom I knew for so much of my life has been gone a long time and I miss her terribly but it’s those brief moments and little surprises that grab my heart.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

27 years ago a journey ended…

It was 27 years ago today that Mom’s journey with Daddy, their life together, ended.  The “till death do us part” became all too real.  They had lived through so many things together.  Their teen years with school and church activities, their marriage and moving away from family for Daddy’s job, the separation of World War II, settling back home again to raise their five children on a small farm and so much more.

The majority of their life together held much of the “in health” portion of their marriage vows.  There was very little of the “in sickness” part.  Mom had an ovarian tumor that, once removed, led to our family of five children, but otherwise there were just little backaches here and allergies there.  Daddy never missed work other than a short fight with an unfriendly kidney stone.  Sad to say but I think I brought more doctor visits into their lives with my once a year bouts of bronchitis than they ever had to deal with themselves.

That all changed when Alzheimer’s slowly drew them deep into the “in sickness” part.  When Daddy first retired, he was forgetting things but he was still himself.  His quiet, deep love for his God, his family, his friends and his life was still evident. 

They took time to travel – helping move my little family to Montana and get us settled, visiting the next year with my sister and her children, moving my little family back home, camping their way through Canada, and flying to England for the birth of a granddaughter. 

Being at home during that time meant taking care of grandchildren.  Most days they had at least six or eight and sometimes all of them.  I know they had my two and my sister’s four all the time.  There was none of the “spoiling” going on!  I went to work knowing that my children would have the same upbringing I did.  They played all day on the farm but had to behave properly.  They were disciplined but definitely loved.
Five of the six grandchildren that spent the most time with Mom and Daddy.  My two on each end and three of my sister's in the middle.

As time went on, the grandchildren grew and went off to school and no longer needed Grandma and Grandpa on a daily basis.  Daddy’s Alzheimer’s progressed but Mom, learning as she went, dealt with the changes.  Nine years after he retired the life changing moment came.  In the time it took to give Daddy a sedative he went from a physically healthy 69 year old who could still run and jump fences to a man who could no longer walk.

Mom had seen Daddy through so much of the decline but I think God knew that Mom would not be able, physically, to handle the next stages if Daddy’s mobility continued.  So, in that brief moment, He made sure that Mom would be able to see Daddy through the remainder of their lives together.

Daddy went into the nursing home and Mom was with him every day from breakfast to dinner for two years.  She saw that he was fed and cared for and, even when he didn’t know her, her love for him continued.  She truly exemplified the meaning of “in sickness and in health” and “till death do us part”.

Mom has been 27 years without Daddy now.  As her journey through dementia continues, the memory of Daddy is fading.  There are few days now when Mom recognizes his picture.  Despite that, I have full faith that when God is ready to take Mom home, Daddy will be waiting for her and there will be much singing in heaven for their reunion.