“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.