Lost, but Not Alone

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. ”      ( Joshua 1:9)

When we left the motel this morning, Mom was excited to visit Mark. But somewhere between there and Mark’s apartment, she changed her mind. I guess. All I’m sure of right now is that Mom doesn’t know where we are, and wherever it is, she doesn’t want to be here.  

I look at her perched on the edge of the brown hand-me-down sofa and thank the Lord Mark’s still at work. Then I go over the last few hours one more time, trying to understand.

When we turned into the parking lot of the apartment a few hours ago, Mom was dozing.  “We’re at Mark’s house!” I sang out. 

Her response stunned me. She spit out the words like acid. “Where are we? Why did we come here? Take me home. Right now!”

Panic rose in my throat as all that I had questioned the night before came roaring back. What was this?  

Somehow Dad coaxed Mom out of the car and into the apartment. Separately and together we reminded her we came to Colorado to see Mark.  In reply, she kicked off her shoes and shouted, “Turn on the TV!  Sit down and be quiet!” 

Following Dad’s lead, I obeyed. We sat silent and still, like rabbits in a thicket waiting for the fox to pounce.   

After half an hour, just as the full absurdity of the situation hit me, Mom announced she was going for a walk. Alone. Barefoot. In a strange neighborhood.

What happened next runs through my mind like a horror movie. Dad standing between Mom and the door.  Her mouth open, yelling; her hands beating at his face and chest.  Dad grasping her shoulders, holding her at arm’s length.  Me beside them, pleading, “Stop, Mom!  Stop! That’s Dad!”

My father eventually maneuvered her to the sofa.  Her body still taut with rage, she fell into the cushions, landing slow and clumsy, like a tossed log.

No matter how many times I go over the events, they won’t add up to anything rational.

At last Mom lays her head on the arm of the sofa. Thank You, Lord; she’s asleep. Still, Dad won’t talk to me, won’t even look my way. He sits in a worn leather recliner, staring at his knees. Dead calm rules the room.

Is this real? My mother yelling at my father? Hitting him? Never. But she did. Maybe she didn’t realize it was Dad? Finally I say it in my mind: Alzheimer’s. 

Is this Alzheimer’s?

When Mark gets home, Mom wakes up.  My heart cringes, then expands with joy at the miracle I’m seeing. Mom’s smiling, calling Mark by name. Apparently the tempest has passed. Dad’s face can scarcely contain his happiness. 

So we eat.  We laugh.  Just for tonight, I pretend nothing happened.

I’ll deal with tomorrow tomorrow.   

God, my Father, I know it was Your power that stilled the storm in my mother’s mind.  Your compassion gave us the comfort of familiar pleasures.  I trust You to lead us forward, one day at a time, down this unknown road we travel.  You know me, Lord.  Don’t let me race ahead toward panic.  Remind me to let You go first.  I will follow wherever You lead.

 

Questions without Answers

“I pray…that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”  (Eph. 1:18-19)

 Hot coffee. Thank you, Lord. It was a long night.

The café next to the motel is a classic–breakfast served all day, coconut and chocolate cream pies displayed in frosty glass cases, endless refills of coffee. I lift the mug to my lips and tell myself everything is fine. 

But the confusion continues this morning. In the tiny motel room, Mom couldn’t find the toilet. It was plainly visible, but she couldn’t find it.

What should I do about this? I don’t even know what “this” is.

Across the table from me, my parents have their heads together over the breakfast menu.  I hear Dad suggesting ham and eggs. Or French toast. Or how about good ole’ oatmeal? His voice is loud, too loud, but Mom doesn’t correct him as she normally would. 

While I was awake last night, I came up with a mental list of things Mom is doing differently. Or doesn’t do at all anymore. Like answering the phone. It’s always Dad now, though he hates to talk on the phone. Ironing. For 34 years, Mom washed, starched, and ironed every shirt Dad wore to work. Even the pants he wore to mow the lawn were scrubbed and pressed. Now his khakis are wrinkled and his collars look tired. And gardening. The plants and shrubs Mom tended so carefully are my father’s charges now. 

When did she become so inactive?

Bacon? Ham? Sausage?  Dad tells Mom to just make up her mind, just choose. But she keeps repeating, “Whatever you’re having. That’s what I want. The same as you.”

Just choose?  An hour ago she couldn’t choose what to wear. If I hadn’t helped, would she still be standing there, looking down at her little brown suitcase? Is Dad doing this at home? Helping her get dressed? 

I look at them across the table. Mom’s eyes are fixed on my father. His are scanning the café, probably homing in on the goodies in the dessert case. But when he turns from the pies, he meets her gaze in a way I ‘ve watched since childhood. About this there is no confusion. Their eyes speak clearly their devotion to each other.

The world seems to settle back on its axis. With a silent promise to expect only good things, I drink my coffee and look forward to the day. 

Thank You, Father, for parents who still love each other, in spite of the changes the years have thrust on them. But Lord, I’m scared. Have I overlooked too much for too long? Has Dad been hiding this from me? Why? What do I do now? Who knows how Mom will act tonight? Tomorrow? Ahh, yes. You do. You know, Father. You have always known what this day holds. You have a plan and this day is part of it. Thank You for helping me see the truth. Open my eyes to see the things that have changed; open my spirit to trust in the things that haven’t. 

Where Are We?

“You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.”   (Ps.18:28)

      Though I can’t name the destination yet, I know my life has taken a turn.  I’ve started a new journey.  I sure hope the Lord has the map.  

     The motel room is tiny.  Two beds, one for my parents, one for me, each covered with a plain but practical brown bedspread.  A beige formica-topped table.  A sink on the back wall, shower and toilet on one side, dresser and mirror on the other.  Tiny, but fine for a quick overnight stay on our trip to visit my son.  

     The only crowded spot in the room is the corner by the door where my father stacked all the things my mother insisted on bringing in from the car.  Not just the luggage, but the maps and the flashlight, all the tools and the battery jumper cables.  Dad didn’t object until Mom started dragging out the floormats.  I laughed as though it’s just a new eccentricity she’s developed, but anxiety buzzed like a mosquito in my brain as she went back and forth to the car, closing the heavy metal door to the room each time she went out, knocking on it when she wanted to bring in another load.

     I think back to my surprise a couple of weeks ago when I first mentioned this trip to my father.  I expected he’d jump at the chance for a trip to Colorado in the fall. Instead he hesitated.  He wasn’t sure about Mom, he said.  “She changes her mind a lot. It’s hard to plan things now.” 

     But here we are, halfway to our destination, and the trip has been just fine. 

     Until now. 

     Once she rests from unloading the car, Mom stands and then turns in a full circle around the little room.  She turns once more and finally asks where the TV is. 

     “Right here on the dresser, Baby,” my father tells her.  “See?  Right here.”  He takes her hand and places it on the television.

     “Oh, of course!  What am I thinking?” She stares at the TV until Dad turns it on.

      I should ask.  I should take my father outside and ask him what’s up.  But I don’t.  I tell myself I don’t want to embarrass him, or Mom.  Surely everything’s ok. 

     During the night I awaken to the sound of her voice, high-pitched and anxious.  “Where are we?” she asks my father. 

     He explains.

     Almost immediately she asks again, “Where are we? I need to go home.”

     The square brown clock on the bedside table reads 2:43 am.  Too early to go home, I tell myself.  Or too late.

     Where are we, Father?  What’s going on?  The smooth road of my life has changed, with a sudden curve in a different direction.  Where does this road lead, Lord?  I feel like I’m driving in the dark with no headlights.  But in the night I remember Your goodness.  Your power.  And I tell myself You won’t leave me in this darkness.  You know exactly where we are and You will be with us as we move forward.  Our strong refuge, today, tonight, right now.  Thank You, Lord, for lighting the way.

Welcome!

Welcome to my new blog, Living With Miracles!

Here you’ll find devotionals written specifically for those who care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s, along with their families, friends, and anyone who supports them. 

When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I had no formal training, no experience, and no friends or associates who could share their insights regarding the caregiving job I was about to undertake. I was hungry for help, but also for hope and encouragement. I wanted to guide Mom, protect her, and do all in my power to help her and Dad continue to enjoy life. 

But the road through the wilderness of Alzheimer’s was filled with questions. What did we find as we searched for answers? Hard realities, yes. But also…

Miracles! As we wound along the dark path, we found guideposts and warm cottages where we could rest. We found shortcuts and scenic byways. We traveled through times and places and events of almost unbearable sadness, but we were also refreshed by moments of humor, when laughter rang loud and true. We met kind people all along the way, ready to help, encourage, sympathize, or simply smile.They were the biggest miracles of all, the ones for whom we were most grateful.

I pray these devotionals remind you of God’s power and mercy working with you, for you, every day. I’ve been where you are. I’ve held a hand very like the one you are holding. I saw God’s miracles. Be watchful; I know you’ll see them too.

You have my prayers. May you know His peace.