Friday, October 2, 2015
31 Moments in Time :: crashing on the dementia road
Dementia is a thief. It steals from those who have it, it steals from those who don't. But can it also be a giver? I'm learning, or rather remembering, that it can. When an "other" centered perspective is your map and a loving attitude is your key, there can be joy in your journey.
Don't get me wrong, thief is my 'auto' matic one word description of this horrible condition. It robs you blind and there is no detour around it. I'm simply suggesting that you pause and see the pit stops along the way.
One of our pit stops is family dinner night. We all gather with "the rents" once a week and sit around the table, dining and gabbing and laughing about how big, or how small, the slices of pie are. Silly things, family stories and memories that make us the quirky unit we are, are laughed about, and then laughed about again... and yet again because that's how dementia rolls. It has been a most precious stopping point each week as we travel the dementia road. But time has a way of changing things and the kids have gotten busy with work and college, and honestly it's hard to watch your grandma fade away... The reality is that sometimes stopping points become so comfortable we forget to see and we forget just how precious and temporary they are.
The kids have disappeared from the family dinner table as all kids do and the funny seems to have gone with them. Now we eat and move on, because honestly, it's hard to watch your momma fade away... The reality is she is becoming the child and I am becoming the parent.
Whether children know it or not, they make stopping points on journeys memorable. They bring the light, laughter and wide eyed wonder to many a special place and the moments are made, the memories are formed around them and their perspective of the situation. We've seen it all before, but their eyes are fresh. They have no worry of all the hidden and unknown pot holes along the way. Life is an unending smooth road that lies before them.
This past weekend brought Mother's Day and my sister from Indiana. We had family brunch together and my dining room table was overflowing with kids and love and laughter, so much laughter. The quirky family unit together again. Then Monday came and real life came and honestly, it's hard to watch your sister drive away... The reality is she is the best funny of all and you've been driving so long you've pretty much worn the tread right off your funny.
Monday also brought this.
My dad's cat like reflexes no longer exist and this was only a matter of time for a man who likes to tailgate. Thankfully the rents were not seriously hurt. Imagine my horror as I pulled in the drive only to see my dad and the tow truck unloading this and my mom no where in sight. I found her wandering aimlessly in the yard, visibly shaken and in physical pain but the memory of what had happened already gone from her mind.
Life's road is littered with many potholes but the dementia road is littered with craters. Dementia patients fall into them in a split second, without warning. Dementia caregivers can fall into them too. This totaled truck was my crater, I had already chosen to climb to the edge, all I needed was a little more stress and fear to boot me on in. Two days, two adjusted work schedules and two doctor visits later I was laying in the bottom.
I've been praying lately that God would help me love people the way He loves people. As mom and I rode along in the car to the doctor I prayed this again but this time specifically that He would help me love this woman next to me who bears some resemblance to my mom but no longer can remember even the most basic details about me. That he would help me to hear beyond the repeated questions to the voice inside her saying "I'm lost, will you lead me on this journey?" God is faithful, every time. As we sat in the office waiting for the doctor, God let her tell me in her own voice, "I don't feel rooted to anything, it's as if I'm floating around and I can't seem to land. I don't know where I belong or who I am half the time but I know that I have always had you and that you will always be here for me. I can't remember anything and I get so mad at myself." Then she whispered, "Sometimes, when I can find my wallet, I open it up just to see what my name is." Then she was gone again, back to the game of 50 questions. How do you not die on the spot to hear those words come from your mother's mouth? How does your heart not break wide open with love and compassion for one so lost? How do you not say, take my hand, it is my blessing to lead you? God is faithful. Every time. Thank you for this stopping point.
God even answers prayers we do not know we are asking because He knows our hearts and He knows our needs. On the ride home mom told me, "This growing old thing is for the birds, I can't remember anything, including my name half the time but my name is Barbara Elizabeth Wing Hitchcock and someday I might not remember anything but I will always know that I love you and I will always have my sense of humor!" There was victory in her voice and I was reminded that love and laughter really do conquer all. God is faithful. Every time. Thank you for this stopping point.
People with dementia are not the only ones who get forgetful and sometimes we all need a good crash on the dementia road to make us see what we have stopped looking at. For sometime now I have been watching moments disappear rather than seizing moments as they arrive. I have been looking at my mother but only seeing someone with dementia. Thank you God for opening the eyes of my heart so that I once again see my momma.