Finding Joy in an Unlikely Place

They say your parents are your first teachers.

#Truth

       Like most kids I thought my parents hung the moon and were the smartest people around.  That lasted until I was about 13 or 14.  At that point I couldn’t believe my parents had made it as far as they had without my wise and far superior input.  I mean seriously I knew EVERYTHING.  On the night of my 21st birthday I taped the following quote to their bedroom door:

    When I was a boy  girl of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man  around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.   Mark Twain

My parents, especially my Dad, laughed and made a point of telling me they were glad I had finally figured it out.

So throughout the years there were times when I leaned heavily on my parents wisdom and times when they leaned heavily on mine especially as they eased ever so slowly into the digital world.  Well my Dad did, my mother had no use for it.  At one point Dad’s computer served him well as a convenient place to play solitaire just like their  DVD player was a rather expensive clock.  Once he got the hang of email there was no escaping the many forwards and the endless jokes he passed on.

About a year ago my  93 yr old widowed mother suffered a stroke, followed by another about 2 months later.  It threw her into dementia.  We could no longer say she was just forgetful.  It was too obvious.  In due time we moved her to Memory Care where she is today.

There is no doubt that dementia is a cruel disease.  I would not wish it on anyone.  And yet there is that crazy silver lining that shows up whether we want it to or not.

We were fortunate to be able to do “porch visits” with my Mom  until November.  After that it was window visits but for various reasons those were not the best.  Then it was Facetime.  Mom didn’t get those at all.  Finally on March 18th we were able to visit in person taking all the necessary precautions.

Today was my fourth in person visit.  Each visit is different.  Two visits she fell asleep on me and wasn’t at all excited to see me.  The third visit found her alert and active.  Today’s visit she was in bed taking a nap and was happy to see me.

I have learned not to set expectations about these visits.  I stay very much in the present moment with her which is a blessing and a joy.  She is teaching me to just be present and more importantly to meet her where she is at and how much she can interact.  I slow down and do something I need to do more of..just be.

Today there was nothing but love in the room between us.  I greeted her with my usual “Hello Beautiful”   She  smiled.  I am always tickled to see she knows who I am.  I am prepared for the day when she doesn’t know me or mistakes me for someone else.  I will meet her where she is at when that time comes and if she needs me to be someone from her past, like her mother…well I can do that.

She asked about my husband…a good clue she couldn’t remember his name.  It is all okay.  She told me she had a surprise visit from her Mom and Dad.  I chuckled and said ” Wow that is so nice!  I too would be surprised if they came to visit me!”   Yes a little dark humor can be a coping mechanism.  I saw the comfort she got from that “visit”.  She mentioned my Dad and asked where he was.  Our answer is always “He is on a business trip”   She nodded.  There is joy in that as well.  She no longer suffers the sadness of his death.  She looked up and said “he left without kissing me goodbye”   I replied ” I’m sure it was early when he left”  She said “True, I will look forward to his kiss when he returns”.  I quietly sent out a message to the universe to have Dad  “visit”her like my grandparents did earlier.

My mother has rounded third base and is heading home in the final inning of her life.  It is not without its starts and stops.  It has multiple hiccups.  She is still teaching me and showing me that love knows no bounds, that sitting, being present, slowing down are good values to hang onto and perpetuate.   I practiced it yesterday when I  plopped down with my almost 14 yr old granddaughter on a huge bean bag chair.  Our heads were touching.  She was showing me something on her phone and we were laughing, talking about life, school, boys and cooking.  She has obviously not figured out that I don’t KNOW everything although I think grandparents get a pass on this phase of  teenagers.  I was in no hurry to move or have the moment end.  It was my favorite part of our visit.  Thanks Mom.

If Covid had allowed I would have crawled in bed next to my Mom today and put my head next to hers.  I got as close as I could. My phone was off, I had no place to be but there.  She smiled. Mom’s day refreshes multiple times a day.  She has reached the point where nothing really troubles her and joy abounds.

Do I wish I could have her totally back?  Of course, who wouldn’t? I am grateful that I have found  a peaceful place to be with her in my heart and treasure each time I get to hear her say ” I love you too!  Bushels and bushels.”

One of our porch visits 🙂

Thanks Mom for the life lessons, all of them… love you.

 

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It Matters to Me

Dear Mom,

It was so good to see you today!  I love your smile and how you light up when you see me.

You looked good.  For 94 years young you look younger than some other people I know. Shhh..we will keep that a secret between us.

You asked about Dad..as usual he is traveling for business.  You shrugged knowing how often he does this.

I brought you lunch. You were delighted and promises were made to warm it up when lunch time rolled around.

You said you were tired so I left to fetch some items you needed.  Toothpaste, tooth brush, socks, washcloths and some new sheets.  Easy enough, or so I thought.  Turns out full sheets are tough to find.  Well tough if you want them to be pretty and soft.  I hope you like what I picked.  They are soft but I couldn’t find floral so I had to settle for a blue geometric pattern.  Hopefully you love the softness more and can understand that floral sheets are hard to find.

I did find some beautiful rose colored washcloths.  They are soft and plush.  There is nothing worse than washing your face with something akin to sandpaper.

Of course the toothbrush, toothpaste and socks were the easiest except socks in your tiny size are not plentiful but I found them..go me.

I can’t bring everything over until tomorrow.  You will be surprised I know since every day is brand new to you.   Every minute is fresh with the previous minutes escaping from your memory moments after they pass.

You won’t remember that I even came by today.  You might remember your yummy hamburger 🙂  Food seems to be more memorable these days.

You accept that Dad is on a business trip.  It would be too painful to remind you every time that he is gone.  4 years today as a matter of fact.  You constantly look for him and ask about him.  Believe me I wish he was here too but it would be hard for him to see you like this.

I have so many questions that I want to ask but you are unable to answer.  I look through past photos…long before I was even in your thoughts as a possibility and I long to know that carefree spirit in the hula skirt or peeking out from behind the shower curtain in your dorm at nursing school.  I think we would have been friends and had a grand time together.

How I wish I had paid more attention to your cooking and how you put recipes together.  I asked you today but you couldn’t recall.  Lost opportunities. Thankfully I have your recipes in your beautiful handwriting that makes me smile.

As I carefully picked out the sheets and washcloths today I wondered why I was being so particular because in my brain I knew it really didn’t matter to you.  The color or the pattern, maybe even the softness or thread count were of no consequence.

My heart told me what is true..it matters.  It matters to me.

I am thankful you still remember who I am.  I am thankful I can see you in person and give you a quick hug.  I can brush your hair and tell you I love you.

In that moment it matters.  It always will.  I picked everything out with love today and that matters.

While I am often sad when I leave your room in Memory Care, knowing you would rather be with Dad,  I am thankful I get to tell you I love you one more time.

Love you Mom..bushels and bushels,

 Jennifer

Mom on her 80th

Me and Mom on her 80th!!!

 

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