Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The lessons we learn…

Many of us probably remember saying things such as, “When I’m a parent, I’m going to do things different than my parents did.”  It’s not an unusual thing for a young person to think when they are upset about being disciplined or being told no when they want to do something.

In my case, I really can’t remember feeling that way.  As a matter of fact, I raised my children the same way I was raised and as grandparents, my mom and dad treated their grandchildren the same way they treated their children.  I really appreciated that when they were taking care of my children when I was working.

As the years went by, I continued to learn from my parents. I learned about loving and caring – something that seems so easy but really must be learned because as children we are very self-centered. I learned about handling money, making decisions, raising and disciplining children, having a good work ethic and so much more. I made mistakes, of course, and continue to but I also was taught to learn from my mistakes – life lessons, I like to call them.

Mom is soon to be 99 years old and she is still teaching me. No, she isn’t who she used to be. I can’t go to her and ask her how to make a pattern fit me properly or how to knit or crochet. That information is all lost now. There are still lessons to be learned though.

I watched indirectly as Daddy went down the path of Alzheimer’s. I’ve been watching Mom journey through dementia. I’ve also watched from afar as my former mother-in-law has dealt, for over 14 years, with the aftermath of a traumatic bleed in her brain. I’ve watched as my husband’s parents have aged.

When Daddy died both he and Mom were 71 years old and Mom was relieved he was somewhere better and no longer experiencing the Alzheimer’s. Although she was ready to join him whenever God was ready, she continued her life and kept busy for many years before dementia set in. Her journey continues with no end in sight but thankfully, she has made it to the point where she is content and happy to just sit and snooze or watch what is happening around her and sometimes comment on it. She still laughs quite a bit.

My former mother-in-law has a different story because at the age of 48, she lost the love of her life, my father-in-law, when he was just 51. The loss was totally unexpected and she still had three of their ten children at home. She managed to continue but once the children were grown, was ready for God to take her. Fast forward to a fateful day that might have been her last but for a friend taking her to the hospital. Suddenly a creative advertising and marketing person had no words with which to communicate and didn’t recognize her own family. It took years to overcome some of it but not all came back and she has been mostly bedridden for over 10 years. Each morning she shakes her fist at the crucifix because she doesn’t know why God is keeping her here.

My husband’s parents also have a different story. My mother-in-law worked for a surgeon for many years and it was a very good thing! She made sure I was taken care of when, shortly after marrying her son, I suffered three consecutive bouts of flu and my immune system was shot. If it wasn’t for her, my oldest daughter’s emergency appendectomy may have turned into a nightmare because it was a Sunday evening and the ER staff didn’t want to call in a surgical team. Mom (my mother-in-law) called her boss, who happened to be the Chief of Surgery, and within a half hour, he was at the hospital operating on our daughter. We have more stories like those and we certainly appreciate her role in them!

Maybe because she spent so many years in the medical field, Mom and Dad (my in-laws that is), in comparison to my own mom or my former mother-in-law, are very dependent upon doctors. Dad has dealt with cancer and heart issues over the years and Mom has had lymphedema for longer than I have known her. As they have aged, the issues have compounded and there have been times when we weren’t sure what the outcome would be.

So, as I watch how four very different people in my life are handling the winter of their lives, I am still learning. I am formulating opinions about how I want my care handled when and if I reach that stage and how I feel about the end of life.

For now, I’m content to leave it all in God’s hands. I’m sure the plan is in place – we just don’t know what it is.