Thursday, July 28, 2011
Learning New from the Old
This weekend, my in-laws went out of town. Gary's mother has Alzheimer's and has been living with them for the last six months. Yesterday was my Mother-in-law's birthday and Gary wanted to take her away for a couple days to go fishing and relax. We have had the joy of spending the last two days caring for Mimi. I say joy because in these last twelve hours I've reflected on what's really important in life. I've been watching her: sit in her favorite chair and pick at her nails, and drift into and out of her own little world. Every now and then she comes back to us and carries on a conversation. Even though she repeats the same things over and over, I never grow tired of hearing stories of her childhood. Stories of living on a farm in Calvin, Oklahoma. She is a hard worker and has led quite a life. The wrinkles in her face seem to tell her story. She's a stubborn woman...stubborn in a good way. She's having a hard time letting go of her independence even though she seems to know she's not quite capable of keeping it up anymore. One thing seems to make her happy and that's the boys. Whenever they are around, she smiles and laughs and tells them what good boys they are. She doesn't seem bothered by their orneriness. She'll smile and say, "That's what little boys are supposed to do."
I worked in an Alzheimer's unit at a nursing home in college. I was a Nurses Assistant and the Activities Director. This disease has baffled me for quite some time. It's heart-wrenching to see someone revert back to child-like tendencies, to wander around aimlessly wondering what to do with themselves. Last night, she must've asked us where Gary and Gloria were four times. She seemed to get a glimmer in her eye when she asked, "So, I'm here alone this evening?" I had to explain to her that Jon and I were spending the night here too so she wasn't quite alone. Her face dropped and she closed her eyes. "I can stay by myself. I'll be just fine. So, you now have the burden of babysitting me, do you?"
"No, Mimi...we have the joy of spending time with you. You are NOT a burden." I put my hand on top of hers and her chin started to quiver. "I don't want to be a burden." My heart breaks for her. I'm holding back tears as we discuss how she just wants to go home. She tells me that she wants to go to her house and sit in her spot on her couch and be alone with her things. There's something comforting to us about "home". We learn this early in our lives that it's a place of solace, peace, a place where you feel at ease. I want her to be at ease.
We continue to talk a while and finally around 7:30, she tells me she's headed to bed. This morning she seems refreshed and ready to start over again. I know the same questions will happen today just as they did yesterday.
It made me think how this earth is not our home. Our home is with our Heavenly Father. It makes me long for Heaven. So, today I'm thankful for simple things. I'm thankful for health, for my independence, for a roof over my head. I'm thankful for my children and the innocence and joy that only children can bring. I'm thankful for being able to pick veggies out of the garden this morning and the sun that beats down on my back. I'm thankful for the cool relief from the swimming pool. I'm thankful for my mid-afternoon nap that I'll take. I'm thankful for my dog to keep me company. I'm thankful for good memories I have. I'm thankful for Mimi. I'm thankful for what joy she has brought to our family and lessons that she still teaches me today...whether she realizes it or not. Her worth is invaluable to me.